Far be it from me to predict the demise of Facebook, MySpace, etc., but there seems to be growing evidence that people are using the mammoth, ubiquitous social media networks to break off into smaller niche networks. Catherine Taylor reports on her Social Media Insider blog on the Media Post website: “Aggregation followed by disaggregaton seems to be a recurring pattern in the online world…. remember back when we all had an affiliation with an online service such as AOL and Compuserve, and those relationships gave way to the chaos of the Web? Or when the portals dominated the content business — only to see their authority partially usurped by user-created content? Millions of social networks created by average citizens seems to be the logical evolution here, and while some of those will be groups within broader social networks, others will use freely available tools to create a more customized presence.”
She cites the increasing popularity of proprietary social networking tools such as Ning and compares the landscape to a couple of years ago when all sorts of blogging tools cropped up.
So are we moving from the global village to a globe of villages? It makes sense. Of course, as Catherine points out, this trend makes the business model of social networks problematic. How on earth do you make money out of a niche network? She writes, “You have to wonder how and when advertisers are going to be able to find these ever more fragmented social nets, and whether the social nets that go into this as a business can make enough money to survive. If the success — or lack thereof — of most blogs is any indication, there’s not a lot of there there.”