3 Examples of Failed Social Network Leaders, Who’s Next ?

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Burned out Social Network leaders are strewn across Silicon Valley. They rise like shooting stars, think they are God’s gift to e-Mankind, cut off access from the third-party ecosystem, and sink like a meteor in Earth’s merciless gravity. Among them are such notables as AOL, Friendster, MySpace, Yahoo Buzz, and Google Orkut.

1. AOL (America Online)

AOL started its social network as an integrated feature of their ISP. Virtually anywhere you lived in the U.S. you could get ISP service from AOL by simply inserting a disk and running a brief installation.

There was a time when in America you would receive a copy of AOL’s installation and signup software at least once a week in the mail. It came on floppy disk before there were CD’s. Then when CD’s were invented for the computer AOL would litter the planet with copies of CD’s with their measly less-than-1.44M program all alone in the huge 650M of space. As if this weren’t obnoxious enough, especially in light of the burgeoning environmental movement, AOL’s mobster mentality spelled out its eventual collapse.

AOL had found a loophole in banking protocols that they exploited to squeeze money out of their customers a bit longer while the disgruntled client sought to discontinue AOL’s services. After allowing AOL to make direct withdrawals from their bank accounts, customers discovered it was nearly impossible to force AOL to stop. The bank required AOL to make the decision to discontinue, as crazy as it seems today. In spite of the good business sense it makes to comply with a disgruntled customer’s wishes, within reason, AOL tried to push it as far as they could.

What were they thinking? Did they imagine a limitless supply of customers? People eventually treated AOL like a computer virus and would not touch their software with a ten-foot pole. Many of us used the CD’s in our gardens to spin in the wind and scare off birds.

2. MySpace

MySpace is another tragedy, but of a different kind. While it started out with a great idea, the clunky interface, obnoxious ads, and faceless company drove it to its death.

Yes, it is ironic that a social network should have a faceless company behind it. The only thing worse than having no staff to contact is to have belligerent s.o.b.’s answering your customer service requests, as is the case with Facebook today. However, so far Facebook has not caved in to the pressure of implementing an interface that interferes with the activity it encourages, as MySpace did. Some say News Corps’ purchase of MySpace in 2005 destroyed it, in spite of Rupert Murdoch’s misplaced confidence.

3. Orkut

One of Orkut’s major snags was that to find anyone in a search required you to be logged in yourself. We are not talking about viewing detailed info, but just finding someone. It is a typical Google thing to want you to log in first before the magic happens. Those searching for certain people don’t want to have to stop to log in, especially when the interface was sluggish.

The second major drag for Orkut was the JavaScript interface that took just enough extra time to load that people noticed it and grew weary of the loss of minutes of their lives every week waiting for interface loads.


The next social network to fall could be anyone of the giants, but if the laws of probability do, in fact, dictate reality, then the biggest is ready to topple soon. That means either Facebook or Twitter. My money is against Twitter.

While Facebook has been successfully fending off one law suit after another, miraculously, Twitter has begun shutting out third-party programs. This kind of mentality is the “I am God” syndrome. It spells the approach of a downfall. Twitter’s twits are numbered. I’m sorry, did I say “twits”? I meant “tweets”.


Vishal Gaikar

Article by Vishal

Meet Vishal Gaikar, the tech wizard hailing from Pune, India, who's on a mission to decode the digital universe one blog post at a time. When he's not tinkering with gadgets or diving deep into the digital realm, you can find him concocting the perfect cup of chai or plotting his next adventure. Follow his tech escapades on Twitter and buckle up for a wild ride through the world of innovation and geekery!

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