A great deal of Web 2.0’s hype, or the justification of its promise, is rooted in the fact that social application’s are engineered specifically to unleash the network effect. There’s a new social application being launched ever day now it seems. But You Mon Tsang, founder of Boxxet, makes a fantastic point in this post about bionic systems: with attention increasingly scarce, the web community simply will not support a large number of social applications - there isn’t enough participation to go around. His words:
…the web community will have a tough time supporting the large entries of social applications. There is simply not enough participants/participation (or attention) to go around. New services that are essentially empty applications that require participants to add content and value will have a harder and harder time. We should expect to see a handful of such services dominate eBay style (where the network effect works its awesome magic). But unless these services can create lock-in the way eBay did with its feedback score, we have seen the fickleness of the crowds also abandon services just as quickly.
So how do you get large-scale participation network-effect results when the reality is you’re social application will be competing for increasingly scarce attention? You seed it and feed it with automation - you make sure your application amplifies the small participation it does get. This is great thinking on the topic. I’d love to get an invite to Boxxet :-).