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The Dream Is Dead

After spending the better part of my early morning commute discussing the hardship social media companies are enduring after their mammoth API parents are imposing, and whether that’s right or not I’ve come to the very unlikely conclusion that the whole ideation and genesis of what we call social media is dead. Before you jump the gun and call me a heretic let me clarify so that you don’t become another one of those mindless readers out there; I’m not saying social media is dead my point is the dream that powered the social media machine is dead.

Mistakes made, mistakes won

Unlike most businesses the digital renaissance after the first bubble burst made it very clear that profit for profit’s sake was not the ideal market model for a system as distributed and open as the internet was thought to be (is thought to be). Human beings, being the extremes animal we are, decided to go the exact opposite way and generate businesses that foster communities in value not only with users but with other developers who add and change platforms and systems for better by direct third party affection. But as with any corporate cycle companies who are born out of inherent good, whether it is a soft drink or a micro-blogging service, the idea is to fix something that’s broken, tap a new market or advance technology that will make users be healthier.

An incredibly complex system is put in motion once the idea becomes a profit driven business. Once the idea needs to necessarily engage in monetization all the core values that had driven development usually take heed as the whole point of the company is to make enough money to keep the dream machine running. We work, we build, we expect to make enough out of our users/consumers to get better, grow and sell more. It’s not an evil circle but a rather virtuous and collaborative effort to make the bits and pieces connect to create something. At the core of any business remains the first engaged motion that drove an idea into gestation and execution of a product or service, after that it’s an organism which can be directed but depends solely on third parties to exist. I guess you could equate this process to the actual birth of a human being if you so wanted.

The Dream

Going back to our issue, APIs are part of the intrinsic development of web based applications and other that require a cross referenced data set in order to properly function and deliver. APIs are the expression of that notion that collaboration needs to exist in order to guarantee survival and growth. A third party observer would argue that they are symbiotic relationships, very much like Twitter with developers everywhere that user their platform to build on. Both companies grow, everyone’s happy.

The only issue behind collaboration is the same basic logical defeat that releases most communist hardliners from any reason, individuals/companies are eager to own more, to grow more, be better and efficient. Nobody enjoys living by an imposed set of rules, much less if it’s your back yard and you are the one that actually built the house. Setting rules in your own house is simple because the general notion of structure is pretty straightforward, this is my property, these are my things.With my remote I change the channel so that I can see whatever I want to see. This also brings with it rules of acceptable social behavior, such as respect and value for your guest.

There’s a reason why you let your guest in.

The House Within the Dream

The Internet does not carry the same set of rules and it is widely regarded as a more despotic kingdom than the offline world. Physical rules apply to the offline world where you can react in a number of ways to a certain omission of previously agreed on rules. Twitter, as many a houses online, does not understand or sees itself as a house. It stands today as the gatekeeper to those who wish to enter their realm as guests, because that is what we are. Platforms are “free”, and “free” comes with its own set of rules, Facebook and Twitter make a habit of making this clear with changes that meet resistance whether in design, application or terms. This puts us at fault and should force us to take a deep hard look into the mirror and ask: Have we reached the lowest point, the lowest of lows, where the rules imposed blur into our own?

Quite possibly the complete disregard for an ecosystem will have some backlash, alas it will not be significant in any way. There are literally thousands of developers ready to help social media beasts make more money and willing to take their share of the profits even if they are low.

Waking up

Companies are (usually) born good, they become evil when they realize profits is what they need to get that idea to more people only to understand that any successful business needs a balance. It takes time, after experiencing witnessing the bubble from the outside looking in, being inside the bubble and attempting to poke it I can honestly say…VCs, angel investors, seed investors and users are tired of the next big thing. There will be no next Twitter, or Facebook killer. Developers are tired of fighting money.

The age of profitability where those who survive are those who have learned how to make money with what little they have is here. The conditions are set, the systems are in place for distributed funding and “monetization” is what will carry you to the tech afterlife.

Hey, by the way, how did South by Southwest go this year?

The dream is dead. It’s time to wake up and smell the markets.

  1. Mar.14.2011@8:50 pm - nch says:

    Very good post.

    In “philosophical” terms, I believe this is a very old discussion embedded in the core of our society. And the Internet, once again, bring the these topics to the surface. Aren’t we capable of collaboration and profit at the same time? Why has to be black or white? I’m not saying that business is intrinsically bad. I’d be stupid if I say that.

    I agree we have to accept the rules, to understand the flux of the online-money-driven world. But here is where I can’t agree with you: “The age of profitability where those who survive are those who have learned how to make money with what little they have is here.”

    Net economy is an opportunity still to go beyond the barrier of the profit. Money might be scarce but not the bits. Aren’t we capable to say stop to the drug or share it at least! :) Long term thinking is required here.

    Because, as you know, we are not talking only about profit here. We’re talking about control over peers! Isn’t that a bit spooky? Call me idealist, but I think is possible to rethink our behaviour towards our peers and do money. Plus, the difference between online and offline is becoming blurry.

    In terms of business, I’ll quote yourself: “People shouldn’t be afraid of their social networks. Social networks should be afraid of their people.”

    Right! They are not their clients anymore, they are their “source” of clients. Less freedom for developers can drive to less interaction among peers. And less interaction among peers might cause boredom and delusion. And that hits the “source”.

    Thanks for the debate. I’ve learnt a lot today. :)

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