The one with the Business Proposal

I’ve got a wickedly amazing business proposal: Yet Another Social Network!

Now, hold on. I’m not finished.

Claim. Facebook and Orkut, and all other currently existing social networks will eventually die. OpenSocial will die too.
Proof: Eventually all of us current users of Social Networking will be the parents. Many kids will have their parents on Orkut or Facebook, so they will try to avoid these networks.

Now, you could argue that not all of today’s youth are on Social Networks. So maybe 50% of the next generation may still attempt to join FB or Orkut. But having just 50% of your friends on social networks is a certain killer. You have 50% less incentive to remain on these networks, which are populated by Uncles, Aunts, and … umm, somebody’s Grand Uncles and Grand Aunts.

The key to making a new social network that will take off is to find that exact year and time when this is going to happen. The way I see it, it is probably a mathematical question. We probably need a model for how the network grows (ahem ahem, I’m actually reading a pretty related paper right now, as part of my academic work.) Of course, we should assume that no person will join a network his parents are on. Another thing we can assume is that in general, people join social networks first when they leave high-school, or around that time.

Now if we can find that exact boundary for kids who’ll start giving up on social networks: say we come up with the year 2020. That is, the outgoing high-school batch of 2020 would not be interested in joining any of the major networks. Let’s work backwards a little.. to say 2015. This is when we release our new social network, and we target it at kids.. content for kids who are in around 7th grade.

A social network that targets kids will never work in general. So in 2016, we upgrade our strategy to target 8th graders.

In 2017, we target 9th graders.

In 2018, we target 10th graders.

So on, so forth. By 2020, we’ll be targeting the right people, and we’ve got a whole bunch of the right people in our network. So what’s the guarantee that they won’t shift to another network? Well, their parents are on the other networks! (They will not join even if their friend’s parents on the other network, since that would mean their friend is not on that other network.)

If we’re looking at a model of growth, where the growth is proportional to the current network size, we have a hip and happening large social network by 2020. The batch of 2021 would definitely make a decision looking at this size. And so on so forth. Bingo. We’re good for another 20 years.

6 Responses to The one with the Business Proposal

  1. ochod says:

    or make a social networking site, with lots of fake girl prfiles, which are relaistic and active (pay some girls to manage 20 or so accounts if need be). :)

  2. Shreevatsa says:

    Another thing we can assume is that in general, people join social networks first when they leave high-school, or around that time.
    I think this assumption is already flawed, and will become more and more so in the years to come. What if you discover in 2020 that you should have been targeting 2-year olds ten years ago instead? :)

  3. arnstein says:

    @shreevatsa: it’s not really flawed. Nobody wants to join social networks in schools. I guess they do, but they don’t need to take it seriously. Because they don’t need to keep in touch with old friends. The only reason for that assumption might to simplify the analysis, if at all it is possible.

    From my experience of social networks and IM networks (for example, the reason why rediffbol still exists), the social “pull” of an class is very significant. At the end of high-school most of the social connections are within these cliques :-) . Immediately after highschool I remember that many of my classmates joined Hi-5, a seemingly random choice. The social pull after that, from college friends etc, created an exodus to orkut. I’m now seeing an exodus to Facebook, which might be because of the social pull of international friends and relations.

    The key would be to keep that social pull at the end of high school, and during undergraduate studies, by concentrating on that particular batch. In 2020, it’ll be easier to do this since the pull from the other Big networks will be low, because of the parents effect.

  4. Shreevatsa says:

    I completely agree that the social pull of one’s class is significant. That is exactly my point :)

    From what I can tell (but I don’t visit these sites at all so I’m not qualified to tell), the average person’s (“active”) network on Facebook or Myspace (but not Orkut) contains more of one’s current social (IRL) network than “old friends”: they are simply another medium for communicating with the same people. (Facebook’s history reflects this: When it was started it was exclusively for Harvard students, became successful, then expanded to MIT, BU etc., became successful, expanded to other colleges, then to high schools: it got its “hold” by being a parallel channel for the network of people around you, not long-lost friends. I think that most of the Facebook “traffic” is still intra-school, but this is not an informed opinion.

    Most of Myspace is high-school (and younger) children, I think. Or at least I hope — that people tend to eventually grow a brain :P

  5. Lakshmi says:

    why do i feel… grand aunts etc…was pointg at my case:)

  6. Algen says:

    I think most people want a new social network every now and then.

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