Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


MySpace sells for $35 Million, Facebook to follow

So MySpace sold for $35 million, which is nice for a startup, and pretty poor for a company on which Rupert Murdoch spent a billion dollars.

I think this is the way of centralized social network software. The best of them learn from their predecessors, but inevitably end up overcrowded. Social spaces change. You don’t hang out at the same bar you hung out with in college, and you won’t use the same social networks. Specialized networks like LinkedIn will likely fare better, as long as they stay focused on a core mission.

Ezra Klein says “killer app of Google+ is the ability to start your social network over w/benefit of years of Facebook experience.” I hate to say it, but that doesn’t strike me as a killer app like Lotus 1-2-3 did.

Phil Windley says “just realized G+ is using asymmetric follow.” I think this is right and important. “Friend” relationships are rarely perfect mirrors of each other, and the software asymmetric follow pattern is closer to the human patterns of friendship, respect and fandom.

I suspect that Google has gone further, and consciously built on those patterns with friend, family, acquaintance. That’s cool, and it’s a obvious outgrowth of Flickr’s default circles of friends and family, and adds making new circles easily.

So what does this mean for you?

First, it’s time to start thinking about leavingFacebook. Get your social network back in email where it belongs. Start trying to get your data out of Facebook’s databases before everything about you sells for pennies on the dollar.

If you’re a product manager for one of these things, you’re building on the happy dopamine releases we all get when we get positive social feedback. (That’s why Facebook only has a “Like” button.) You need to realize that the dopamine-release cycle requires bigger and bigger hits of wuffie over time. And the grimaces and hesitations add up. People remember the negatives for a long time. So the bad graph builds, and over time the happy graph drops away, and with it your eyeballs, minutes, options and stock options.

So finally, enjoy it while you can, Zuck.

One comment on "MySpace sells for $35 Million, Facebook to follow"

  • calzone says:

    There are fine but extremely meaningful lines between the kinds of follows and relationships people have, that social networks really don’t do an adequate job of hitting upon.

    There’s your standard “bookmark”, which is simply how you make it easy to come back to see someone again in the future. Perhaps you have a passing interest. Perhaps you have an interest but you don’t want the other person to know you do. So you use a bookmark in your browser. SNs could adopt something similar but give it more utility.

    Then there’s the obvious “follow” paradigm. This means you’re interested in someone else to the point you want to know everything that changes about them on a continuing basis and want to share this fact with them AND the world. This concept all by itself needs to be broken down a bit. You could have secret follow (no one knows except you), discrete follow (no one knows except you and the person you’re following), and open follow (you advertise the fact that you’re following to other people).

    And do you want to have the kind of super-vicarious profile that reprints everything all the people you follow are up to, while you share relatively little about yourself? Or would you rather your profile restrict what it displays to only stuff by you? You probably want to pick and choose, create automated rules, and even elect down to the individual update.

    More, you probably want to restrict which of your relations sees updates from other relations of yours based on shared groups and relations.

    Next, there is the friend concept. But this is not a follow. You might say it’s stronger than a follow; I say it’s not. My roommate might be my friend on a network but I don’t need to know his every update because I live with him and already know much of it. However, I still want rights and privileges that come from “friendship.”

    Next there is family. There is close family and there is family that is more like friendships. There should be at least three degrees of family. There’s the level you share with your spouse, there’s the level you share with your spouse and kids, there’s the level you share with your parents, and then there’s the level you share with aunt’s uncles, cousins, etc. And you don’t want any of them to know which level you put them at and it should be asymmetric. It should just all be labeled as ‘family’ with qualifiers that show what kind of relation you are.

    Finally, there’s commercial relationships. A popular band might want it’s fans to feel like they are best of friends with each band member (or maybe even better friends with one band member), even though the band really has no time or means of maintaining millions of friendships.

    On the flipside, there’s the commercial relationship where someone like Burger King wishes you were their friend and follower and their marketing team believes that to be the case. Meanwhile, the truth is that you just signed up to get a free Flame Broiler every other Thursday and don’t give a shit about them otherwise. A good SN would enable such a relationship.

    So: access to information, broadcast of related information, insight into relationships, and the named type of relationship (concepts which tend to be lumped in SNs today) are all actually distinct and they should each be able to be controlled via levels/degrees, grouping mechanisms, and the nature of every single one should be totally asymmetric.

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