Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Ideas to Toss: Beacon Unplugged.

Posted on: June 7, 2008

Social Networks are the way to the future. Ah, I can see people getting ready with pitchforks to nail me to the wall, but lets hear this out.

There is this basic ideology. The paradox of the masses. Whenever at any given network the number of members become too huge, the system starts to break down. It happened with all other social networks, it happened with the internet before that, it happened with ICQ, it happened with Orkut, and it will happen with Facebook. Lets take the case of Orkut, and with a much more real life example to follow it. Orkut was great till it was reference based, and then case the day when it was opened up to everyone and then the masses came in and so did the “frandship” requests. Long story short, I deleted my account in Orkut and am hiding in Facebook till that eventual doom also arrives at the door step of Facebook.

I think this is the logical thing that is going to happen to facebook. Imagine that you are part of an elite club such as the Lion’s club (if it is elite enough) or lets take the Madras Club (known for its elitism) and you were part of the elite 50 and you knew everyone who was part of the club. Most of the members in that club enjoy that lifestyle and keep it closed for the very nature that they dont want to democratize it. Lets say that they do, what is going to happen is that there will be 300+ people flowing in, soon you realize that you dont very much “belong”.

In the first order of things of all creatures, the necessity to belong is a crucial one. When that starts to erode, everything starts to fall apart. In my visual imagination, its like a tower that rises and rises, till it eventually starts to crumble under its own weight and falls apart, that smaller networks start to arise out of the ashes of the parent.

All this is to state one thing. The future of social networks is one where there will be niche verticals that will get created for various things. Imagine meetups with a social networking aspect and that is what will happen. Now this is happening in some level with Ning . But the issue with Ning is two fold. One it cant get out of the domain name of Ning.com (which can be easily fixed), and the other is the fact that I need to recreate the membership everytime. What if I create a new “community” pretty much like what we do inside orkut or Facebook, but outside of the walled garden?

So the future is pretty much a case where there will be skeleton frameworks available so that one can give it the look, and theme it to what they want, all the way from Mac Cultists, to Cricket Fans to whatever one fancies, and the social linkages will be drawn out of Opensocial. Using the linkages one can easily pass on how one’s friend is part of a new network and can draw out a larger easily accessible audience for each of these interest groups.

Now comes the fancy bit. Each of the these verticals will need to be monetized to be sustainable. And just as facebook has Beacon, there is a need for a Unplugged beacon which can power these networks and make these initiatives sustainable. Given that they will be such a niche target area, getting an audience of say 40,000 – 60,000 for each genre would be fairly simple and would make for a very focused approach for these marketers and advertisers. There will be new ways and means of delivering the content, message and engaging those audiences.

There is most certainly an opportunity to tap here, especially as we start to see eCommerce on the rise in emerging markets with such staggering numbers.

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8 Responses to "Ideas to Toss: Beacon Unplugged."

Yes, i really would like to believe the future of the social networks to be more driven around social communities and specific vertical communities which are hand crafted.

What i mean is the following i think the value of the network to make it sustainable and of any value for the members it should lean towards a community rather than be a pure network of members .. i would never want to be in madras club just to exchange cards .. hopefully there is more to it. I do believe the stronger online communities have a larger purpose rather than just know each other.

The growth of these communities would be through gradual restrictive growth and include only serious members and could be through membership only charges.

There is a significant opportunity to be able to hand craft these communities with a number of stakeholders who can benefit by being able to offer products and services to these communities. This will automatically raise the stakes and bring in a need to keep the community experience pleasant and spam free.

I believe you can use the same login across all social networks on ning. Is that what your second point is?

Interesting post, Vijay.

The value of the “social network of the day”
appears to be linked to how easily it
enable you to be smothered by crowds. Or less
dramatically, how easy it makes others to find
and somehow link with you.

If niche communities like the Madras Club (or the
Gymkhana Club) start forming in response to
getting smothered on Facebook, Linkedin, then
the value of the tool itself diminishes. The focus
then shifts to the already established community.
We now have active involvement of existing members
to scrutinize new admissions to the group.

The group will already have a core and will easily
switch to a more obscure online presence to
make it harder for unwanted noise. They may even take
it offline (eg upcoming events on a cork notice board
in the Gymkahana club). They also have a
tendency to strongly resist advertising. I am member of Lions Club. These are my observations from
our meetings and activities.

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Great Information blog ! Thank you for keeping up the good work. I look forward to returning to your blog, and learning more from you !
http://www.uoha.com is coming soon!

Google has started doing this by offering social networking tools to any blog/website. But I agree with you that there is a need for such a thing.

Perhaps, this could take a form of widget or a page where people could connect and discuss. But I have a feeling that widgets might be existing already.

@ Kausik: Restricted and referral based network growth. I agree.

@Prateek: You possibly can. I mean I wouldnt call it a feature or a need though. OpenID should be universal. ASAP :)

@Vivek: Interesting thoughts. I dont know how offline and online “communities” will mingle. I havent thought through that bit yet.

@Uohoa: Thanks. Here’s hoping that you are not a bot :)

@Paras: It possibly does, but the traffic gets diversified and diverted all over the place. If I want to create a community, its going to be tough if the interactions happen over a spread of ten sites – i’d possibly want them all under one site, so that the focus is there.

hmmm interesting …

This was exactly what i was about to discuss with you for my startup….

I am glad to see, people recognizing it now. My market is just getting ready.:)

You probably missed out one more point. The identity theft in the social networking websites. Search for Michael Arrington in facebook and you do not know which one is the real one. Have you searched for Vijay Anand in facebook?

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