A recent article in my not-so-favorite form of media, the NYT - addressed: Why Old Technologies Are Still Kicking. The article identified the common traits of survivor technologies as 1) some enduring advantage in the old technology that is not entirely supplanted by the new, and 2) business decisions that invest in retooling the traditional technology, adopting a new business model and nurturing a support network of loyal customers, industry partners and skilled workers.
Dent saw and examined the impact of new technologies on the S-Curve, and I think that's critical as we examine the longevity and enduring advantage of technology like social network or networking sites (not to be confused with the activity of social networking, which doesn't need a specific site). Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social network sites (as distinguished from social networking sites) as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.
Adults are more likely to meet in Facebook or at a coffee shop
LinkedIn also has coffee shop qualities, as it provides a place where business isn't the only thing that needs to be discussed. That's especially helpful in Chamber of Commerce mixers in some of the Southern U.S. locations, where it's taboo to conduct business before spending a minimum of 15 minutes about the weather, politics, and your choice of either the SEC or NASCAR.
Imagine a network of 100 000 members that we know brings in $1 million. We have to know this starting point in advance—none of the laws can help here, as they tell us only about growth. So if the network doubles its membership to 200 000, Metcalfe's Law says its value grows by (200 0002/100 0002) times, quadrupling to $4 million, whereas the n log(n) law says its value grows by 200 000 log(200 000)/100 000 log(100 000) times to only $2.1 million. In both cases, the network's growth in value more than doubles, still outpacing the growth in members, but the one is a much more modest growth than the other. In our view, much of the difference between the artificial values of the dot-com era and the genuine value created by the Internet can be explained by the difference between the Metcalfe-fueled optimism of n 2 and the more sober reality of n log(n).
So how does this fit with our look at social networking sites?
If an enduring advantage and a retooling mindset are the keys to success, then social networks should be around for a while. These sites didn't invent the social part, nor did they invent the networking part, so the enduring advantage is there. They facilitate acquaintance and reacquaintance, and are run (at least initially) by technology entrepreneurs -- with a retooling mindset built in. I think the question is not whether they will last, but in what form they will emerge, and how many mergers will we see before the shakeout is over.