There are no social networks

3 September 2007


A Blue Perspective: There are no social networks

There is only one social network. My social network.

Flickr is part of my social network. Twitter is part of my social network. So is Facebook, Upcoming, MySpace,, Corkd, Pownce, and a host of other social sites.

I like to talk to different people. Some of those people know the other people, some don't. That's my social network.

I like to do things with different people. I like to do lots of things with some people. Others ... not so much. That's my social network.

My social network is complex. It's multi-layered, it moves in many directions. It means different things in different situations. You think your site can handle all that? I don't think so.

Your site is good, it's fun, it makes me smile, it helps me connect. But your site is not my social network. It's just part of the online social ecosystem. It helps me do something – or many things – but not everything.

If you don't want to be part of the system, if you don't want to play nice with others, if you think that you can be my social network, then you're seriously mistaken.

If you can't converse with other parts of my social network, then you're going to wither and die.

If you can't see my friends and let my friends be seen, you'll be washed up and hung out to dry.

If you can't let others innovate, you'll stagnate.

That's my social network. Would you like to be a part of it?




  1. 1/19

    Mislav commented on 3 September 2007 @ 10:57

    Fantastic post.

  2. 2/19

    Brendan commented on 3 September 2007 @ 11:39

    Amen, brother.

    If there was a better way of describing how I've felt about every social network that ever describes itself as one; then I haven't read it.

  3. 3/19

    Lachlan Hardy commented on 3 September 2007 @ 12:12

    I suppose I deserve this for not posting it myself when I said I would

    In typical semantic pedant fashion, I do disagree with some points though. Twitter is not part of your social network - it's a tool that represents and facilitates part of your social network

    I'm increasingly of the mind that the *social networking sites* that claim to be everything to everyone will either pare down to core functionality or fall by the wayside

    There was a period a while back when pundits kept talking about how Twitter not really a 'social network' but was better suited as a basic feature for such networks. That's exactly where I see things going

    As social network portability (and more importantly, share-ability) becomes more prevalent, people are going to opt for the services that offer the best of that particular functionality for *them*

    eg. Maybe I decide Facebook is the best aggregator of my favourite web services, but I don't use it for photos - I use Flickr. I use Twitter for short-form blogging and communication and I choose MyStrands as my favourite music recommendation service. Facebook would simply aggregate these services into one convenient location

    People will use each web service as it best suits their usage and their needs

    Generic social networking sites would best served by facilitating that

  4. 4/19

    The Man in Blue commented on 3 September 2007 @ 12:39

    At the heart of it, though, all of these "social networks" offer a core service, just like Twitter.

    Flickr allows you to share your photos. Twitter allows you to share your 140 character thoughts.

    They both have a system where you make connections with other people. They both are ways of interacting with people. As is Facebook. Facebook just happens to add on a few more services.

    They all still have to feed off one another though and allow innovation and collaboration through sharing.

  5. 5/19

    Ben Buchanan commented on 3 September 2007 @ 14:20

    In a sense all these "social networks" work directly against the goal of anything to do with a human's social network - specifically they try to control it.

    Twitter does a great job of status updates but it's just one service that does the exact same thing - if a user has chosen Twitter then all the other services should let them just pipe their twitter feed in directly.

    My extended musings on the topic are at

  6. 6/19

    Luigi Montanez commented on 3 September 2007 @ 14:37

    Great post. I can feel a real momentum on the Tubes on working towards social network portability. My "provocative opening statement" about this topic would be slightly different though:

    My social network is the Internet.

  7. 7/19

    Tomek commented on 3 September 2007 @ 20:14

    I use Flickr Twitter, Facebook, Upcoming and they are getting more popular everyday i like flickr where i can put some photos and easy put link to image on my website. I think I can be in Your social network but it will be hard to become new member of the Your network!

  8. 8/19

    Tom Watson commented on 4 September 2007 @ 01:46

    Agreed. I've written a few sentiments of a similar nature over on my site.

  9. 9/19

    Richard Rutter commented on 4 September 2007 @ 02:09

    Really well put, Cam. Are you listening Facebook? I doubt it, somehow. But the networks that *are* listening will be better off for it.

  10. 10/19

    André Luís commented on 4 September 2007 @ 02:23

    Good points.

    Ironic, isn't it? The good social networks are the ones which are "social" to one another. Social networking is much more than just connecting user accounts.

  11. 11/19

    Rik Abel commented on 4 September 2007 @ 04:28

    Great post. For what its worth I drew a little diagram of my current social media ecology...

  12. 12/19

    Vlad Rafeyev commented on 4 September 2007 @ 20:21

    This is what Brad talks about. Please read his post - it is exiting.

  13. 13/19

    Anton commented on 5 September 2007 @ 01:10

    Absolutely brilliant post, thank you.

    But is your social network in closed beta? I can't seem to find the sign-up form. How do I add you as a friend? ;)

  14. 14/19

    Robert Dundon commented on 5 September 2007 @ 02:14

    @Richard: Are you listening to Facebook? Zuckerberg calls Facebook a "social utility" (,8599,1644040,00.html). It acts to help people communicate.

    Let me explain: For example, Meetup is not a "social network," but a tool to help people with commom interests meet in reality. This is where sites like MySpace miss the boat. If these "social" sites want to be successful, they must see their sites as tools, and not little money-making bubbles solely contained on the net.

    Well, that's my 2 1/2 cents.

  15. 15/19

    Mike commented on 6 September 2007 @ 00:22

    Wow, I couldn't agree more.
    and I hate people are talking about Facebook as the ultimate social network.
    That's why I use <a href="http://www/">8hands</a>,
    the profile aggregator which unifies all parts of MY networks(Myspace, Facebook, Flickr etc.)into my own desktop point where I can keep touch with all of my friends, regardless their networks usage. It doesn't matter if you're my Myspace friend or my Flickr friend, you are in my network, so you'll appear on my 8hands. i can keep track on our relationship and its progress and I'll be immediately informed if you send me a msgt, comment or whatever.
    Any of you who've identified with this great post should try this 8hands thing.
    It's awesome.

  16. 16/19

    iamkeir commented on 6 September 2007 @ 21:11

    Excellent post, Cameron - your point is beautifully succinct and direct.

    @Robert: Let me explain: For example, Meetup is not a "social network," but a tool to help people with commom interests meet in reality.

    Totally agree - in my opinion social networks should be sitting alongside the real world, enriching it, not trying to replace it.

    I want to see a social networking 'utility' with a strapline that reads "getting people on the web, to get them off the web"!!

  17. 17/19

    NakedBiff commented on 6 September 2007 @ 21:53


    You're absolutely right. The site should be an enabler of what already exists. I've been working on an idea called Open Messaging which I think you might like - it's about fluidity and creating an online space that better reflects the offline world and the dynamic relationships we have in it.

    I think I'll be including your post in the next article I write, and I'll definitely be e-mailing it to the Naked team.


  18. 18/19

    mutui commented on 8 September 2007 @ 08:33

    Good point. I also think that social networks should just be conceived as "tools" to get in touch with people sharing similar interests - they're represents just a small, tiny part of our social lives, and they absolutely cannot handle the complexity of people's existences, relationships, and so on.

  19. 19/19

    Antoine of MMM commented on 9 September 2007 @ 04:17

    Very nice post. Dovetails with a piece on social networks effectiveness that I posted today.

    I really wish that not only social networks talked, but devices, browsers, and address books along with 'em.

  20. Leave your own comment

    Comments have been turned off on this entry to foil the demons from the lower pits of Spamzalot.

    If you've got some vitriol that just has to be spat, then contact me.

Follow me on Twitter

To hear smaller but more regular stuff from me, follow @themaninblue.

Monthly Archives

Popular Entries

My Book: Simply JavaScript

Simply JavaScript

Simply JavaScript is an enjoyable and easy-to-follow guide for beginners as they begin their journey into JavaScript. Separated into 9 logical chapters, it will take you all the way from the basics of the JavaScript language through to DOM manipulation and Ajax.

Step-by-step examples, rich illustrations and humourous commentary will teach you the right way to code JavaScript in both an unobtrusive and an accessible manner.

RSS feed