March 5, 2007
It’s now official: social networks have surpassed online video and widgets as the latest craze (though video and widgets are still getting plenty of play, too).
From an investment point of view, I think I hit the timing on video pretty well (video started as an area of focus about 24 months ago, and now is waning since everyone and his brother is launching and/or funding a video startup), but truthfully it is less clear to me whether I am still early, or too late, for social networks and widgets…
Just in the last few days there’s been lots of social networking news.
Marc Andreesen’s startup Ning went live. I think it is looking pretty slick.
In what can only be called a bizarre move, Cisco bought Tribe. Hunh?
The most interesting nugget amongst all of the noise is the growing recognition that smaller social networks, formed around tighter communities of specific shared interests, are where the long term utility of social networks is likely to be found.
This is a thesis I’ve been noodling on, and discussing, alot lately, and figured large in the social networks discussion at the Polaris Digital Media Summit in January.
Getting theoretical for a minute, this is an interesting twist on Metcalfe’s Law. (How often do you get to work with a partner who has a Law to his name??) Whereas Metcalfe originally postulated that the value of a communications network increased as the number of people connected to the network increased, it seems that in many instances the value of a social network actually decreases when it gets too big. Or, at least, there needs to be some coefficient for the affinity between members added to the equation. Bob and I have been riffing on this around the shop, and he had a fun post on the subject last summer.
To sum it up: social media, and social networking generally, is transitioning from bleeding edge/experimenation to cutting edge early adoption. Though still in its early days, the opportunities are very real — and substantial.