Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Social Networking Goes Niche

As titled in this Business Week article.

The gist is that more people are getting turned off at the overt openness of MySpace, where basically anyone can reach out to you (except if you're a teen, in which case you can put up a wall), so social networks that allow you to control exposure of your profiles to others are gaining traction. The article names Vox as an example of just such a niche network.

I see MySpace as filling a fundamentally different need than Vox. MySpace is all about widening your circle. It's a place where kids can connect with other kids from far-flung places, to help mitigate the isolation they feel as their parents place ever more restrictions on their mobility in response to our increasing media and news culture built on fear of strangers and of The Other. Young people, therefore, would like as many contacts as possible. It also makes them feel popular if they have 100,000 "friends" in their network.

People like the protagonist in this story, who fled MySpace for Vox, want to use social networks in a different way: to strengthen ties with the contacts they already have, and to broker, and have brokered, contacts with only those new people with whom they share common interests or purpose.

But there's another thing not being addressed by this article: is another reason people are fleeing MySpace that there's just too much advertising and storefonts being put up there? I can easily envision such backlash against this marketing tactic causing the sun to set on it in the next year or two. And if that happens, what would justify continued investment in broad network platforms like MySpace?

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