ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Yet Another Bubble: The social networking bubble

By Dennis Anderson, Newton Lee

Lately, it seems we are going through a never-ending cycle of bubbles in information technology and finance. Some of them smaller than others but nonetheless they are still bubbles. The bubble happens when a mob mentality takes over the market, eager for a share of what is perceived as the next gold rush. The big bubbles can have a major impact on society at large such as the housing bubble that led to the global financial meltdown of 2008. In IT, some of us are asking is there a bubble on the horizon for social networking. 

It is amazing that something born in a college dorm room is now valued at $100 billion. The latest entry to this crowded space is Google+, although this is the tech giant’s official attempt at social networking, it is not its first. So far, Google+ has been received with great fanfare and small grumblings from impatient first adopters. It is exciting to see Google has introduced Google+ from the point of view that it will advance the social network as it is continuously evolves. But what will become of it in 10 years?

The current valuation of some of these social networks is certainly a bubble. The question is how many social networks do we need? Before Facebook, there were many others who became a distant memory if remembered by anyone at all. Is Facebook facing the same faith, as players like Google inch into this already crowded space? There is no doubt that this bubble will follow the same trends as others like the Internet bubble in the early 2000s.

There are so many fascinating questions we can ask about how social networks will evolve. It started as simply connecting people but it is becoming more about a market place. What is the value of your network? How do you put a value on that? More interesting questions.

Since its introduction, Google+ managed to grow rapidly, reaching 20 million users before it began to slow down after a month. Keep in mind this is a small fraction of Facebook’s community, however it is impressive nonetheless. Google+ has introduced circles of communities, mobile apps, and other features to match or outperform Facebook. Some surveys show that many Facebook users may be willing to leave for something else. This may be the nature of any social network which we have seen before, remember Friendster and MySpace? Do people want to create a Google+ profile and have to manage two social networks? At the moment, that seems to be the case. We are now managing profiles on Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, Tumblr, and our own websites. Do we really need so many profiles? Don't you have more or less the same groupies in all these networks? Some aggregators are on the horizon. 

At the moment, it is too early tell how this bubble will shape the social network but it certainly is exciting. Usually the real things survive once the dust has settled. Who will be standing? That's the question. To be continued.