Monday, July 14, 2008

In the Ghetto

Graduate Junction




Ning’s challenges come in three areas: First, users of any particular social network built on Ning can’t share their data across different Ning social networks, negating the advantages of network effects. This means that each social network on Ning has to grow an audience to start from scratch. (From Ning’s perspective, separate data gives social network creators more control). Second, if any social network actually becomes popular, there’s a good chance that it will migrate off Ning because independence affords more flexibility and control. Third, alternative platforms, like Facebook, offer far greater reach. Build an application on Facebook and you can market yourself to Facebook’s 53 million active users. Even if Ning allows for data sharing across Ning users, it has a fraction the active user base of many social networks.

While each of the above sites (and the many similar ones) have laudable aims, they fall into the torrent of sites being produced at present which require separate registrations to ring fence isolated communities. This balkanization of online spaces will fail to produce inclusive communities. Pity.
It's easy to get funding to produce a shiny new website, since the funding bodies have not understood the impact of Web 2.0 and are still operating like it's the 1990's. Getting funding to foster open online communites with specific purposes but based on existing vibrant networks is much harder. This is what Small Worlds is attempting to do.