Remember Friendster, the innovative social networking site with the friendly Happy Face? I do. In fact, along with the millions of other people who flocked to Friendster, I spent countless hours updating my profile, adding friends, and writing testimonials. It was all the rage. People couldn't imagine a world without it.
But that world quickly changed when the site started going down constantly and couldn't scale with massive growth. A giant-in-the-making vanished nearly overnight, with MySpace eating its lunch. MySpace had scaling problems as well, but managed to remain faster and offered unique self-expression features that Friendster lacked. Complain as much as you like about how ugly MySpace looks, but its growth indicated that it was here to stay. With compelling content from popular bands, sexy women, and other creators, MySpace came out a clear winner.
Along came a myriad of other social networking sites, all clamoring for market share of the social Web. Many self-organized into niche sites and became the premier social networks of Brazil, Ireland, or Detroit -- all big markets that are nothing to scoff at. But very few had the global reach of MySpace or its rival Facebook. Together, the two sites became the yin and yang of social media. Facebook took the controlled-design approach of Apple, and MySpace went the "anything goes" direction of early Microsoft.
History seems to be repeating itself with Twitter -- at least in some respects. Like Friendster, the site's enthusiastic early adoption has proven the need for a scalable platform.
I admit, I really didn't get Twitter when I first tried it. I added a few friends and updated my status a few times -- and completely lost interest. It was the initial reaction I'd had to Friendster.
Eventually my friends started following up, nudging, and constantly asking for my Twitter ID. I clicked through and replied to a few nudges -- and off I went. I didn't look back. Now Twitter is an important part of my life for business and being social. I find out news within minutes of an event happening and can find a myriad of things to do with friends and strangers. I can also cultivate an interest group around projects I am involved with. What a win!
So, already Twitter is more useful than the 1.0 of social networks, but can it be improved? Yes! Will it be improved in time? Unfortunately, I don't think so. I predict that the equivalent MySpaces and Facebooks of this particular space are coming, and then it might be a KO.
Twitter can't build features fast enough, because they have too many issues to sort out with scaling. If someone comes out with the features we're all looking for and creates a mass following of all our friends, then we'll have a clear winner.
A MySpace direction would be interesting. It would probably focus 100 percent on a one-to-many model for celebrities and "ceWebrities" of all sizes and their fans. Maybe special people will have premium features. I don't predict access control lists in that scenario. But a Facebook direction might be tightly controlled for "real friends" and have permissions from here to Mars. Each approach would have its own benefits.
Come to think of it, both MySpace and Facebook should work to create the next status micro-communications tools. It sure would simplify the lives of those that are already engaged on those networks. Facebook is almost there with its status updates. You can subscribe to your pal's updates via SMS, but replies are restricted to the person you are replying to unless you switch contexts and post to their wall. So close!
Let's hope Twitter can outrun its growing pains and future rivals without ending up with the arrows in the back so common to technology pioneers. Everyone loves a happy ending.
— Cyan Banister, Founder of Zivity.com