Hot Today, Gone Tomorrow

Why do some OSNs (Online Social Networks) die and others grow?  Why did MySpace rise to be the #1 social media network at one time (seeing strong growth from 2005 to April 2008) and then see a precipitous decline?  What happened to OSNs like Yahoo (still around) and Orkut (largely non-American)?  Does Facebook inevitably face the same type of decline when the “next new thing” arrives on the scene?

AT&T’s Walter Willinger and the University of Oregon’s Mojtaba Torkjazi and Reza Rejaie submitted a work to the Workshop on Online Social Networks in August of 2009 that has merits for us today as we ponder the lifecycle and longevity of any OSN.

One of their conclusions is that there is a lifecycle for OSNs and the decline is fed by two pernicious factors:

1) As the popularity of a site grows, it attracts attackers and spammers. The existence and increase of these elements have a dampening effect on users of the service, causing them to slow usage and even abandon the platform.

2)  A new “fashion” emerges that can address any perceived disadvantages of the current system.  If a system changes too much, it can lose users because it is difficult to keep up with the changes.  However, if the system refuses to change, users can become bored and newer systems will attract existing users away by providing the features sought by a large enough segment of the users.  Constant Innovation is not only a good idea, but required to maintain a leadership position.  However, that constant innovation cannot irritate existing users and drive them away.  It is a delicate balance.

More information is available in this classic study which sheds light on the topic for us today and into the future.  You can access the complete White Paper here.

If you’re interested in discovering what is going on with the world of Social Web Search and Mining (SWSM) you should look into the SIGR (Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval) conferences and other events.  You’ll learn about what is happening now with social media and how enterprises world-wide are deploying resources to achieve significant results.

Conferences held in Cooperation with SIGIR (SIGIR members eligible for lowest registration rates: Join now)

See also the upcoming events page, and ACM’s online calendar.

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