2004-05. I was just out of college. IT was still the happening field in India so I started a job in India’s largest IT company - because where else? Internet and emails and Google had already been there for sometime so weren't really novelty anymore. For us early 20 crowd, the go-to place was Yahoo chat rooms.
If you are a nineties kid you will remember starting the conversations with - ASL? Yahoo chat and chat rooms were probably the early ancestors of Web 2.0. And then the pandora box started opening in 2005. Youtube came. Orkut followed. We were soon posting scraps, and the more creative ones among us were thinking of posting videos.
Social wasn't a mass movement yet but was catching on. Then, of course, the baby-faced Zuckerberg and the more sardonic Dorsey launched Facebook and Twitter and web2.0 was on us in full force.
For the last 18 years, the social media giants have more or less hogged everything - users, valuations, controversies, lawsuits. Will they continue dominating the next techades too?
Twitter has changed hands, Facebook is losing valuation and trying to masquerade as Metaverse, LinkedIn seems to have matured in the hands of Microsoft. Challengers like Snapchat, Tiktok, Clubhouse etc have come, some stayed, some didn't. So what do the next years hold for these giants, the challengers or even the entire social landscape as a whole?
Hybrid - As the world gets lonelier, especially in a post-COVID world, networks that have an #IRL life will win. Tinder in its early days at least cracked this with its college roadshows and meet-ups.
Look at new-age pedigree networking platforms like Leap Club or Chief. They all encourage in-person meetups, events, and more. The early success of some of these networks shows a market for community-based networks going beyond virtual spaces.
Augmented - One of India’s fastest-growing social networks Chingari has been busy reinventing itself as a meta-network with its own NFT token Gadi. Pokemon brought together an entire community of gamers hunting for virtual Pokemons. The very interesting Happn dating app pops on your timelines people you have actually crossed in your real life, using smart location intelligence. Imagine a future of walking into an event and your smart glass popping up your LinkedIn contacts for you. Or if that doesn't sound interesting, your Tinder dates. In web 3.0, social will increasingly be invaded by metaverse elements like augmented reality, NFTs and cryptos. Meta may not have completely figured it out yet but other players will.
Karma to currency - Imagine getting paid in crypto for the time you spent on social media. Why not? It is only fair that you, the product, that social media has been shamelessly monetising also get a stake in the profits. What about a social network that lets you monetise your social actions or followers? Youtube has been creating part of the ad revenues with creators. Patreon lets users charge their followers for premium content.
Millennial career network Spotle.ai had a dynamic reward policy that awarded tokens to all users for any action - be it watching a video, solving a challenge or getting a like on their content. It is payback time for social networks and let's see how they rise to the challenge.
Cohort-based - Interest-based communities have been rising for some time and may just be firming up as the general open spaces lose their sheen. Cohort-based communities and conversations have been a rising trend - forging more meaningful graphs. Advertising dollars may also be shifting to these smaller communities as businesses have finally seen paying for vanity metrics like likes and RTs does not really help. Twitter has shown declining revenues for several quarters before recouping some lost ground. Facebook’s growth curve has been flattening. The dollars could finally be chasing more relevant cohorts.
Trusted - One of the biggest controversies that have dodged social networks is their lack of trust and often also ethics. How safe is your data in the hands of these networks? How likely are they to stand up to counter pressure from rogue governments, and powerful corporate bodies? The answers have not been encouraging.
Blockchain-based networks such as Sapien, Diaspora have been rushing ahead to solve these problems. They claim that their identity protection, decentralized architecture protects users from identity theft or corporate interference.
However, without higher adoption or clear monetisation paths, the democratic social network still seems like a utopian dream
Rimjhim Ray, is VP-marketing, MyOperator