Will Flickr and YouTube outlast MySpace and Facebook?

Fred Stutzman on a crucial difference between ego and object-centric social networks:

“A great photo-hosting service like Flickr (object-centric social network) stands alone without the network, making it less susceptible to (network) migration. An ego-centric network, on the other hand, has limited core-value – it’s value is largely in the network – making it highly susceptible to migration. We see this with Myspace: individuals lose little in terms of affordances when they migrate from Myspace to Facebook, making the main chore of migration network-reestablishment, a chore made ever-simpler as the migration cascade continues.

Of course, the problem with ego-centric networks lies in the fact network-reestablishment is the main chore. Talk to individuals joining Facebook today – what are they doing? They’re using inbox importers and searching to find their friends/ex-classmates/etc. It’s a game, it’s fun for a bit, but then (say it with me readers) “What’s next?” Yes, the what’s next moment occurs. This is not to say the network becomes useless: no, it’s very useful rolodex, and the newsfeeds introduce concepts of peripheral participation (or social surveillance), but the game is in essence over.”

Fred has a lot wrapped up in here. First, the cleavage on the lines of ego vs. object. Social networking sites are ego-centric. Object-centric social sites, like Flickr, YouTube, Del.icio.us, place something else at the nodes of the network (admittedly, though, Flickr is a tough one). I have previously called this the primary pivot. The way to ascertain what type of network you’re looking at is to look at what gets the URLs…what is the primary thing being shown at the URL? In ego-centric sites it’s a profile. In object-centric sites it’s the object…

Fred Stutzman on a crucial difference between ego and object-centric social networks:

“A great photo-hosting service like Flickr (object-centric social network) stands alone without the network, making it less susceptible to (network) migration. An ego-centric network, on the other hand, has limited core-value – it’s value is largely in the network – making it highly susceptible to migration. We see this with Myspace: individuals lose little in terms of affordances when they migrate from Myspace to Facebook, making the main chore of migration network-reestablishment, a chore made ever-simpler as the migration cascade continues.

Of course, the problem with ego-centric networks lies in the fact network-reestablishment is the main chore. Talk to individuals joining Facebook today – what are they doing? They’re using inbox importers and searching to find their friends/ex-classmates/etc. It’s a game, it’s fun for a bit, but then (say it with me readers) “What’s next?” Yes, the what’s next moment occurs. This is not to say the network becomes useless: no, it’s very useful rolodex, and the newsfeeds introduce concepts of peripheral participation (or social surveillance), but the game is in essence over.”

Fred has a lot wrapped up in here. First, the cleavage on the lines of ego vs. object. Social networking sites are ego-centric. Object-centric social sites, like Flickr, YouTube, Del.icio.us, place something else at the nodes of the network (admittedly, though, Flickr is a tough one). I have previously called this the primary pivot. The way to ascertain what type of network you’re looking at is to look at what gets the URLs…what is the primary thing being shown at the URL? In ego-centric sites it’s a profile. In object-centric sites it’s the object…

Fred also suggests, and this is one of the best ways I’ve heard this described, that this is why migration away from ego-centric sites is easier than object-centric sites. It’s because we’re not storing anything other than our identity, which we feel like we take with us when we move to a new site, right? (even though all of the info we’ve submitted to the site is lost!) But we never feel like we’re taking our photos with us when we leave…they are obviously objects we possess.

Finally, the notion of a “what’s next” moment. I’m seeing this more and more on social projects…each type of site has a moment when the people using it have filled out their information, so to speak, which was a driving force for use. But after that happens, after you add all of your friends to Facebook, what do you do then? If you’re a teenager, you keep going because teenagers can never have enough friends. If you’re 30, then you probably go into maintenance mode, where you add folks intermittently as the need arises.

Interestingly this last point also relates to object-centric networks, and this is crucial: there is no “what’s next” moment when you can forever accumulate more digital objects…

Our ability to handle social interactions has limits, as per our attention. But our ability to accumulate digital objects, with their negligible size, is infinite.

Published: November 6th, 2007

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