Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Social Networks: Online Communities By Other Names Seem to Smell Sweeter

It never ceases to amaze me how the web seems to constantly reinvent the name of the basic online community. There have been many 'One Hit Wonders' in the evolution of the web but the basic building block of communities is one that predates the web.

Online communities were in existence back when teenagers would join a bank of modems to allow people to access there BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems). At first there were 'elite' boards that required a test of your knowledge and references from members - hacker and gamer boards with the latest demos and leaked prerelease version of games and software - or adult sites where you could buy your way in for access to pics that took hours to download on the old 2400 baud modems.

When the web established itself many of these people were the first to push the envelope for monetizing sites, creating tools and populating this new road on the super information highway.

ICQ, IRC and AOL pushed ahead with chat rooms before the WWW - though some limited numbers allowed on at any given time and others had too many so that the text messages scrolled by in a blink of an eye. This immediate system pushed many of the message boards back into obscurity or isolated them to small groups of hardcore members.

The news groups were still there but they tended to get flooded with spam and total garbage.

Then the message boards regained popularity under things like Yahoo groups and fledgling web-based BBS software. But the true popularity of such communities to reach a large global audience was always the brass ring just out of reach.

The systems would name themselves something flashy and try to suggest they were new or different. Blogs with comments was a recent version that seemed to take off - most of the conversations that take place in the comments section of the blog entry are a meeting of old cronies or the introduction of like minded niched readers.

MySpace seemed to capture a number of new elements but used the old community approach to develop the most popular social network.

And again it was the teenagers that pushed this to the next level. It was their perception of this being cool - or maybe their use of it that made it cool - but MySpace reached the top of this technology in terms of use and popularity and hype.

The latest entry into the area is MOG.com - a music themed version of the social network and they are looking to become the next MySpace.

What everyone is missing is that the 'global village' finally has the methods to communicate and create itself. The village is really a large collection of smaller social groups talking to each other about the things they are most passionate about. It can be music, technology, industry knowledge or any of a million topics.

Niched portals or forums, networked websites, email groups and all the other forms all strive for community. What is happening now is another human reaction - we want our community to be the best - the hippest, cutting edge thing out there - at least how we perceive it ourselves.

The name and the wrapping does distract and influence. But underneath it all is the basic human need for company. No man is an island and with access to the web you will never have to be!


  1. The problem with the sites like MySpace is that they aren't safe. MyGoodFriends.com is an online social network that is family-friendly and it's monitored for safety. It's a site that parents can feel alright about and really enjoy using it because it's easy to navigate.

  2. You can monitor but ultimately it is up to how the children are eduacted that will stop things happening... the same things are also happening to of age men and women.... common sense is needed everywhere.