Christopher Beam has an article on Slate about how Facebook may end up becoming far more popular than other big Internet sites, because it has the social network already built in. He also talks about how corporations fail miserably at attracting their own social networks.
Every major corporation, it seems, is trying to add social networking to their core services. Netflix, for example, allows you to keep tabs on what your “friends” are watching. But it makes much more sense to peddle your services on a huge, prebuilt network—no wonder Netflix users can now check their buddies’ queues on Facebook. And we’re not only talking about businesses: Just look at Barack Obama’s campaign. Thousands of users have downloaded the Obama Facebook application since late May, and hundreds of thousands more have joined Obama-themed groups. Compare that to the relatively paltry 70,000 registered users on the candidate’s custom-made social network, My.BarackObama.com. Using the Facebook network as a delivery system, it seems, is easier and more productive than creating the system yourself.
In a way, duh. It’s much smarter to work through the established network than try to set up your own. Social networks are a lot more valuable if all your friends are already on them. Penn has its own social network called “Pennster.” This probably took someone a lot of time to set up, and it will never work, because everyone and their parents (but not mine, yet) have a Facebook. The first thing everyone does when they get their college email is get their Facebook account. Also, social networks organized around corporations are limited in scope. It would feel weird to discuss the ending of the Sopranos, or celebrities, or dating, or anything else on the Barack Obama social network. Although his ringtones are pretty cool.