The year of the social network
September 23, 2007
Dave Winer says it’s “The year of the social network”, a headline I first thought was a little late. Nothing new about social networks, I grumbled, but then realised that wasn’t the point. My train of thought went off on a tangent from Dave’s post as I always try to look at things from outside the geekosphere.
What has happened this year is that social networks have been accepted by the masses and there is no better case in point than FaceBook. MySpace was probably the most ubuqitous social network site before then, but it was not for everyone. Not for anyone over 15, in fact. It is good for some stuff, especially for bands and having 10,562 friends you’ve never met, but otherwise useless. And owned by Rupert Murdoch. Bleugh.
FaceBook isn’t too far off, although has its roots elsewhere, but it does a number of things that have helped it gain wider acceptance. For example, its appearance is pretty consistent and tidy, its privacy controls seem better suited to having only people who know you in your list of friends and the applications means it can be about anything and everything, rather than just you or nothing much at all.
In the last few years we’ve seen the year of the blog and the year of the podcast, and more specialised social networks such as Flickr or YouTube have become popuplar, but while well understood now, these things can’t match the mainstream acceptance of FaceBook, which in turn could open the door to a number of other things.
The big buzz will probably die down soon enough, but I guess its a landmark in the progression of Web 2.0 from the preserve of the geekier to the wider world and consequently democratisation will increase – I point to the examples of the HSBC student loans protest and the reintroduction of Cadbury’s Wispa bars. Well OK, so that’s somewhat trivial, but think of the possibilities!