Wednesday, June 13, 2007
A better virtual mousetrap
During my first morning at the Digital Hollywood conference, I'm struck by how often the terms "social networking," "MySpace" and "YouTube" are slipped into the conversation -- particularly the latter two. Even developers on the bleeding edge of technology are trying to figure out how to move beyond the shadow of these two "Web 2.0" giants.

There is no shortage of bright, enthusiastic software developers attending this conference who are trying to best these virtual beasts by building ... well, a better beast. Or at least one a similar one. And therein lies one of the problems.

One of the reasons that sites such as MySpace and YouTube have become so successful lies simply in the fact that they were incredibly easy to use. Duplicating that kind of success much more complex. While everyone is scrambling to be the "next" MySpace or YouTube, there is a tendency to forget the idea that nobody is asking for the "next" version of either of these sites. Now, if a developer were to create a product that vastly IMPROVED on that experience for users, they might have something.

Instead, what you find is a lot of companies creating the tools for companies with Web sites who want to be like MySpace -- who want to take advantage of the "community" aspects of social networking and put them to use as a means of promoting their own content. The problem is, if the content you are trying to create a community around isn't compelling, your social network will be anything but.

Social networking sites such as MySpace work because their users drive the conversation. Some would argue that site has suffered since News Corporation took over its operation and made that conversation more commercial. Still, at its core, the user is the focus -- and it's the user's choice of content that makes the conversation interesting.

The key to the "next" MySpace is realizing that we don't need "another" MySpace. But we might be interested in something better.
Facebook already has about 25 million users. It is similar to MySpace and almost as successful.
Facebook is much more comfortable to use along with Youtube. Myspace is filled with creepos accessing profiles to enhnace their creepiness. Facebook will pass myspace shortly.
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