MySpace And Facebook – The Modern AOL And Prodigy

MySpace and Facebook – arguably the most popular social networks on the Internet, are filled with the banal, the trite, and the overdone. They are digital clones of our high schools all over again – people fighting for popularity, more pseudo-friends, and more comments. They all want attention, and they want it now.

This is the antithesis of the blogosphere and deep social web where users are interested in having complex conversations and discussions, and drawing things out with continued debate, all in unique spaces. Sure, bloggers and power users are involved on these monolithic social networks, but really for the intrepid person, the hugely popular social networking sites (read: not social news sites like Digg and Reddit) are boring.

They are boring, because they don’t offer any degree of customization and force each user to fit into a mold. They don’t really offer anything worthwhile to “do” other than friend your peers, play with worthless applications, join groups, and use their inefficient messaging systems. I can’t be alone in the sentiment I’d rather check email and get everything in one place rather than deal with Facebook or MySpace’s clunky messaging systems.

But alas, they thrive, despite the fact that there are far more elegant places to share information and connect on the web. These sites are so popular because they focus purely on the person and make them the spotlight. To many, that is what it’s all about.

These services are the new great walled gardens of the web and remind me of the days when AOL and Prodigy reigned king online. Content goes in, but it doesn’t come out. Millions of people are aggregated and information, profiles and friends are locked into one place. And then comes the network owners and their lofty optimization goals and intrusive ads which many times before have destroyed budding networks.

I was one of the early adopters of AOL and Prodigy services years ago, and watched their demise. I’m not predicting Facebook and MySpace will take a dive like AOL and Prodigy did – it’s a different game these days – what I am saying is that they are suffering the same fate.

That fate is that they are the places on the web where the mundane exists. There’s no exceptionally interesting content to come across on Facebook or MySpace – and it’s obvious when you’re on those sites that they are merely a place for people, not content. And these people are truly the epitome of average. Since they do seem to look, act and feel like high school all over again, perhaps none of this is all that surprising.

The truly interesting and innovative people on the web are creating content, having conversations, and spreading their ideas through niche sites and their own pages. People on social networks like Facebook and MySpace echo popular ideas from the blogosphere, message-boards message-forums and social news sites after they are already old news.

Realize when creating online marketing campaigns, adding stuff on MySpace and Facebook should be considered just a tactic, part of a larger, multi-tiered approach. These two networks are thrown around as buzzwords all the time, but there are far more efficient ways to spread things online. If what you’re doing is creative enough, it will find its way into these spaces as an organic byproduct of what you’re already doing.

(Full disclosure: yes, I have accounts on both of these sites. Huge audiences are here, so it’s definitely worthwhile. I just believe these areas are far from the best uses of time on the web. My advice: be here purely to  check up on what’s happening, but realize that they are essentially pure fluff sites.)