02 July 2011

Pack your Facebook bags and go home

Twitter | @ezraklein

Feel like the killer app of Google+ is the ability to start your social network over with the benefit of years of Facebook experience.
All social networks thus far have collapsed under their own bloated weight. Here's what I said about this back in 2009:
I took a course on social network analysis with Jen Golbeck a couple of years ago. She had a theory about social network websites that they all eventually stagnate and collapse under the weight of the social flotsam and jetsam they generate. The obvious solution for people is to de-list all the 2nd and 3rd string "friends" they have, but because that's so awkward people will just leave their accounts to whither and start over on a new system with a new, more selective group of friends. Eventually that new list grows bloated and unmanageable, and the cycle repeats.

I'm not sure (nor, do I think, was she) that this cycle is bound to continue forever, especially since Facebook and MySpace are in many respects more mature and less novel than their predecessors.* Nonetheless the weight of even my moderately sized "friend" list has made the service pretty much useless for me.

* More mature technologically and as social artifacts, not more mature in terms of their content.
People assume Facebook is mature enough to beat the cycle of decline, and — who knows? — maybe they are.  But note that two years ago it was still legitimate to think that MySpace was mature enough to survive.  This week they were sold for a paltry $35 million.

So yeah, it's possible that Facebook survives over the long-term, but I'm not convinced. My money is still betting (metaphorically) that people will feel that the Facebook experience is bogged down by a bunch of "friends" they don't know and notifications they don't care about and decamp elsewhere. Maybe not to Google+, but somewhere.

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