My thoughts on social networks

Social Sites

Not everyone is a geek. Not everyone spends hours in front of a screen, and really, not everyone cares how things works. Most of the people will care only for things to work.
Websites that stop working the way users expects them to work will go the way of the dodo. Remember Friendster?
There are many ways in with websites, software or home appliances don’t work the way it is expected.
Let’s keep talking about social networks… and the biggest of all failures, and this is my personal opinion, is MySpace.
The site is still up. There are tons of users. They are not growing as they used to, but there is this musical niche that relies on MySpace to show their content. Their latest attempt includes some pop singer / actor that plans to use it as a media hub. It might work for them. But it does not work for most of their old users.
A complex user interface. Too cluttered, and almost impossible to modify, even if they provided the tools to let the users change their profile page layout (unlike, lets say, Facebook) turn into a sea of bad taste, bad usability and really weird color schemes.
Even if music was the main hook for the page, the fact that it took them so long to stop the “auto play” shows that they were in many ways just guessing. When they finally did it, it was announced that they will save $10 Million a month on streaming fees.
Now, they go and changed their name to My[___] to then change it again to My[space].
So, what happened with them? Weren’t they the biggest online social site of their time? Youtube owes them their fame and glory. Music business has to thank them for keep them alive. Streaming was not something every site was doing, and they provide a legal way for people to listen to music.
The answer to that question could take hours of debate and discussion. So I will just give my opinion:
Close garden.
Same as with the iPhone/iPad/iPod triumvirate, the idea of “freedom to do things, but not so much”, a much more clean interface, easier ways of sharing (that was what myspace was all about, sharing) and a more controlled environment lead the next social giant to the top: Facebook.
The dead of FB has been predicted, anticipated and expected so many times since its inception.
The many UI changes, the modifications to the privacy settings and terms of use, the horrible chat system  and the explosion of ads on the side should have killed what was once (again, my opinion) a simple site with one goal: sharing content.
But even now with the timeline, and the even more horrible chat/message system, Facebook stays alive, and keeps growing.
Why? oh, mighty google, tell me why?
And my answer to that question is: Because it works.
Mr Facebook and Friends could change as many things as they want, in as many ways as they see fit, but there is one thing they haven’t changed: you add friends, you share with friends. And that sharing is, relatively easy.
And the new timeline is not about functionality. It is not about “getting to the content faster”. It is about telling the user story. You might not like it, or you might love it. I just stand on the side and watch how it evolves, but I find it great. Bringing the story back to the UI. And this, I guess will work for a lot of people. Facebook is taking a huge bet on this.
But as long as the main functionality behind Facebook stays, they can change as many things as they want (just as they have done).
My opinion on FB Timeline
The ability they have to adapt to the new necessities and requirements of the users is what keeps them afloat. If they stayed on one concept for too long, something new might come along and take them out, just as they did with Myspace. They are playing the role of their own enemy! Releasing new functionality, improve some existing ones, and risking everything on others. Why wait for another social network to come up with something like Timeline, when they can do it!
Timeline will work better with the new wave of young users. People that in a few years will have all their lives online. I came to the web-village when it was that, a village. The 14 year old kids now are born in the web-world. They have digital photos of them from day one. Same as videos. Some create content from a really early stage, some are just the subject of their parents gadget-frenzy.
I have photos of me when I was 1 day old. I have a photographer dad, that took dozens of photos. But for me to put them all online will require me to scan all of them. I will need to “re-write” my own life online. 14 year olds are writing it as they live it!
I like the timeline (privacy issues apart), but I will not spend hours re write my life online. That is something for others.
I just wish Facebook will change the message / chat system again, because I do miss the non-linear conversations.
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Here are some of the articles that I used as source this week:

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