Are network effects getting weaker?
"This place is dead anyway."
I was thinking about how fast Facebook has replaced Linkedin for my valley connections. In a period of about 2 months, it seems like most of my contacts have all deserted linkedin and moved to facebook. They seemed to seed it through connections with their board, investors, etc, making a deliberate effort to invite lots of valley techies, journos, etc. and it worked.
Now the little remaining linkedin activity I have is from mostly from outside the sfbay area.
The move was easier than I thought. Facebook seems a little more open, so it's easy to browse around and connect with people you know. And, rather than my store of data in LinkedIn holding me there, starting fresh with a blank slate was a great way to clean up my contact list.
Friendster, Linkedin, Orkut, Myspace, Facebook. Orkut? Yeah it was hot for a little while too. I had a bunch of contacts in there. Not to mention even earlier stuff, like AIM buddy lists, email lists, etc.
Myspace was the king just a few months ago. Apparently it's not hip anymore:
MySpace is a tired social network that may have a ton of traffic but it has peaked. It doesn't have mojo anymore.
Like AOL in 1999, it will take years before people realize it.
MySpace isn't worth 25% of the combined company.
Facebook, yes, MySpace no.
-- Fred Wilson
So what's going on here?
In an environment where travel is free and instantaneous, you get flash mobs.
If a place is cool, or new, or interesting, you go there to check it out.
A place might be interesting simply because there are a lot of other people there at the moment. We're instinctively drawn towards crowds. "Why are all those people gathered over there? I'll check it out too."
A swarm of bees clumped on a particular tree branch doesn't mean that the branch is some magical bee-place with a lock-in for centuries.
Sure, maybe they stay there.
Or maybe the bees move to a new hive.
Another analogy would be a new restaurant that is the hip new place to go.
Maybe they have great food, or maybe it's just the scene, but a lot of times the bloom fades and the crowd moves on to a new place.
Customers had a billing relationship with AOL. Moving to a new ISP was a hassle. They left in the end anwyay.
It's easier than ever to move from one service to another. Blog reader? No problem. Photo site? I have accounts on all of them anyway. Social networks? Yeah I'm signed up on all of them. I use the ones everyone else is using, at the moment. Just like we all do. The rest have a stub profile for me, but don't see much activity.
I started wondering if there was less lock-in than I thought on other services supposedly protected by strong network effects. Like eBay, for instance.
They've got all the buyers, and all the sellers. But what fraction of their transactions are "Buy it now" from their 700,000 merchants? Is there an 80/20 rule to those merchants? Could a core be drawn to a new service?
Ebay hasn't updated itself significantly, ever. I'd like to see a Facebook marketplace. The stronger identity around facebook profiles would be better than the anonymous "trust" ratings.