Commentary

New Social Network Focuses on People You Actually, Like, Know

2001: An iPhone Odyssey

First there was the ancestral environment, way back in the Great Rift Valley days, one million years ago: early human beings live in semi-nomadic groups of no more than a few dozen individuals. Cue "Thus Spake Zarathustra" from "2001: A Space Odyssey," and fast forward to the modern world: human beings live in towns and cities composed of millions of individuals, most of whom they will never meet and are determined to ignore. Fast forward a little more: human beings can now use online social networks to become "friends" with hundreds or even thousands of people they will never meet, and whom they will also end up ignoring. Now, cut to the present: human beings realize this is a stupid waste of time.

Yes, it seems social network users are starting to regret all their promiscuous friend-making, which has resulted (predictably) in a rather cluttered online social experience. People may also be leery about sharing more personal content with their expansive online social networks. And inevitably, the pendulum is swinging back: for example, Facebook's new "Cliques" feature allows you to sort your friends into different categories, but I would venture at bottom there is only one real distinction -- between "real" and "fake" friends.

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There are also some entirely new social networks dedicated to only genuine relationships. That's the idea behind Path, a new mobile-based social network which describes itself as a "personal network" to distinguish itself from indiscriminate, impersonal counterparts like Facebook. The main difference between Path and Facebook seems to be that the former limits you to just 50 friends, compared to Facebook's upper limit of 5,000(!) But Path isn't intended to compete with sites like Facebook; rather, it's supposed to "ride along with them," according to Dave Morin, a former Facebook exec, who co-founded the site with Shawn Fanning and Dustin Mierau of Napster fame.

By presenting Path as an adjunct to Facebook, Morin is positioning it to take advantage of the awkward predicament facing some hyper-social Facebook users. Part of the problem with promiscuous friend-making is that you can't really take it back, without feeling like you're being rude: will your one-time virtual friend notice that he or she has been given the boot? Probably not, but how can you know for sure? Maybe it would just be better to start over again on a new, adjacent social network? Path isn't the first social network to emphasize "real" relationships: back in April I wrote about Rally Up, a location-based social network with iPhone and iPad apps, which allows you to choose from four settings for each friend -- "real," "feed," "lurk," and "mute" -- thus controlling the amount of information about you available to them (and about them delivered to you). Rally up has also foresworn Twitter feeds, in order to keep your friend-related content stream more "pure." Meanwhile Microsoft's short-lived Kin touchscreen phone, which targeted heavy social network users, had a built-in feature -- Loop -- that allowed users to aggregate their "real" friends from across various social networks, moving their profiles and updates to the top of their profiles on each network, thus creating a sort of meta-network of "real" friends.

4 comments about "New Social Network Focuses on People You Actually, Like, Know".
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  1. Eric Broyles from megree, Inc., November 16, 2010 at 6:34 p.m.

    There are also platforms that empower people to understand who is "relevant" to them for a particular purpose, but who they are unaware of the person's social connection to them. That is what www.megree.com is ultimately about showing people their complete graph for them to leverage as they see fit without. Limiting the size of friends or connections only gets at part of the underlying issues with many social networking platforms. Understanding the true nature of relationships and how they exist when you need them is what has been missing. Hence www.megree.com

  2. Brian Wald from Facebook, November 16, 2010 at 8:02 p.m.

    Couple of issues of having/using a social network dedicated to relationships with true close friends.

    1. I have about 50 people who I truly care about in my circle of friends. If 25% of those people interacted with this social network on a daily basis, I'd only see about a dozen stories per day. Pretty boring and wouldn't be enough to really keep me coming back to the network on a consistent basis.

    2. Even though I'm not "close" to a couple hundred of my current facebook friends, I actually enjoy seeing their updates and the stories/article/photos that they share. Just because I'm not super close to them doesn't mean that their contribution is without merit.

    As online friend lists continue to grow, we will likely get to a point where user will feel more comfortable removing friends in order to keep the list manageable. I added/accepted old grade school friends when I began by Facebook presence as a way of simply taking a peak into their lives. After a couple of years of realizing I have zero in common with some of these people anymore, I simply removed them. I would hope they felt the same way and didn't take it personally.

  3. Larry Bodine from Larry Bodine Marketing, November 17, 2010 at 12:30 p.m.

    Erik: what is your contact info. I have a story for you.

    I thought you’d be interested in a crowdsourcing effort on Google Docs – I’ve invited everyone I know on Twitter, LinkedIn, the LawMarketing ListServ and the LSSO listserv to join me in editing a letter template to the American Bar Association, regarding their plans for ethics rules limiting online lawyer marketing. Please go to
    https://docs1.google.com/document/d/1PKFx2BDhxibh1ny7iN6SgkpnUL54rH4Hf2-XjFSxPp4/edit?authkey=CIuz4sIP#
    to see how we’re progressing.

    Kindly let your readers know that they can participate too. The ABA “white paper” is at www.abanet.org/cpr/issuepaper.pdf

    Thanks for your support,

    Larry Bodine, Esq.
    Admitted to practice in Wisconsin
    691 Wingate Road
    Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
    630.942.0977
    Lbodine@LawMarketing.com
    www.larrybodine.com

  4. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, November 18, 2010 at 2:30 a.m.

    I think the real story here is how people with connections in Silicon Valley get the ear of the tech bloggers more than, say, any other talented programmer in another part of the world who suddenly, almost in 2011, announced that they wanted to start a new social network.

    And I'm not being sarcastic here. I'd really like to know:

    Did you meet Dave personally Eric? Did he reach out to you directly? Was the announcement on a free PR newswire or did he use an expensive publicist to make sure you took this particular new launch seriously?

    If it wasn't Dave Morin, formerly of Facebook, starting this, I doubt a new social network launch would have been noticed by anyone, much less a blogger/journalist.

    Facebook has the "hide their posts" feature which I use for two senile aunts who love Farmville and for some guy in Nairobi who had the exact rare British name of a friend. This feature makes it unnecessary for me to spend much time wondering what they'd think if I just unfriended them.

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