I would define the peak of the web 2.0 from early 2000’s – blooming of the blogosphere and the first Friendster-like social networks – to 2008 – up until the iPhone broke in. In 2007, the debate was Facebook vs Myspace, the private (Facebook was walled down then) vs the public approach. While 10 years later it became cristal-clear who won the match, it’s still a good thing to look back and analyze what happened.
Historically, you could say that Myspace opened up the door for Facebook to explode. Myspace made social networks international, vibrant, and a great marketing tool for engaged online communities. The myspace.com/… URL was the first among its peers to walk in the world of traditional ads. Myspace was everything that Facebook became, without the cutting-edge technology. Both companies got financial traction through private investments, but Facebook had the right business ties, and its leader maintained a straight-forward vision that kept the boat afloat. Myspace got unsavvy Murdoch money and our friend Tom did not show clear signs of business leadership, which led to market failure.
That brings me to the topic of leadership in social-oriented technologies. On one end, we had Tom, founder of Myspace :
When you created your account on Myspace, Tom was automatically assigned as your first friend. And everybody was keeping him as a friend, which obviously made him the most popular guy on the site. On Facebook, you were invited to 1.Use your real name, and 2. Connect only with people you know (so no Mark was assigned as your first friend). Tom was some sort of democratic president, not elected by vote, but accepted, legitimized by his popularity.
When you think about it, Tom is the kind of leader we say we want : a like-us, close-to-us person that we can have a beer with, and a leader that doesn’t value business over its network’s social values. Exactly the opposite of the leader of Facebook. Tom failed. And Facebook, with its autocratic approach to social development, became a Big 3. What does that tell us about managing (online) communities ?