Ponderings on platforms

08Apr08

Photo by Tripu/FlickrIt seems like the tech world is not a whole ton different from fashion, or from a ton of other industries- there’s definate trends, styles and that come in and out (but i’m not even going to go into some Hot or Not style rating system). Working with startups over the past year, attending an endless stream of networking events and getting into random conversations around town- its been interesting to see what’s come and gone out of favor.

Last year, everything had to do with some niche social network- and even a social network that creates social networks (ning). Then came the semantic web and “web 3.0″- which is starting to really show promise (i’ll leave those thoughts for a future post). Now, all everyone is hot and bothered about writing Facebook Apps or Opensocial apps. But where is this all going?

A few weeks back, I got a chance to attend the SNAP conference (which focused on Facebook/opensocial apps)- and it was really interesting to see what everyone shared. The appeal to these apps is that you can leverage an existing platform and its users, and with the right idea- rapidly create a user base (the idea being “virality”). That being said, there’s only so many times we can get bitten by zombies, green patched, superpoked (this always sounds a bit dirty to me), or just friended before we get a bit tired. The apps that seem to make the biggest impact are those that add consistent value to the user- like scrabulous or iLike or Pandora.

For me, the most interesting speaker at the conference was BJ Fogg- a professor at Stanford who discussed the pyschological aspects of social apps, and why some apps are more successful than others. His presentation was based on the assumption that the social networks of the world are the most influential medium since radio was invented. Basically, what other medium convinces you to take a constant role in its development- how many times do you access facebook? update your status? add new friends? probably, all the time. Buy why? Because its interesting, helpful, compelling and exciting to meet friends (old and new), and share as much with them as possible. What does facebook and the app developers get? A increasingly more complete version of you as a cosumer, and user- which of course is perfect for advertisers. With so much to benefit for every party, the question is- will the facebooks of the world become our default portals of information into/onto the internet? And of course the next question after that is- what are the implications? Are we comfortable with having one company containing information on all aspects of our life, or is there some way to shield what parts of our identities we represent online, and which do we not. And finally, will we get to the point where everything we do online is constued as just as “real” as if we did it- or said it- in the real world? I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

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