The value of networking tools

A handful of websites pretending to be “The Web”. The harder the fall when it comes. Not wishing any bad luck to anyone, just looking at history.

Here’s a reflection on what makes online services successful by Ev Williams, CEO at Medium, who founded Twitter and before that headed Blogger. His point is that features are not such a decisive factor any more. Networking is.

Today, we all understand the Internet business is not the software business. We strive to build networks and platforms. We compete on user experience (and marketing, to some extent). Features and flexibility are far down the list of competitive tactics, at least when you’re dealing in consumer software (make that, services).

My next “blogging” tool had far fewer features — and way more users. No one moves where they tweet because some other tool has better formatting or profile customization. That’s because a tiny percentage of the value Twitter brings comes from the software itself. It’s all about the network — the connection with other users and the content they create.

My opinion on this is that “the network” is the Web itself, and connections were made, back in the days before social media confiscated the Web — in part by not providing direct links to contents but hoops through which a user has to jump, think Twitter’s URL shortener then a shortener of some kind then maybe a bit of Facebook for good measure and then only the proper, original URL. Most people I show how easy it is to set up a blog these days (Wordpress, Nursit, for example) say “Yes, but where do I gather this oh-so-efficient relationship I have with people on [Facebook|Twitter|Instagram|etc.]”. Well, maybe it takes time. Maybe also we should boycott mean moves such as Google AMP, another attempt at confiscating the Web by one platform.

But perhaps it’s me-as-an-old-blogger-who’s-done-this-for-more-than-twenty-years speaking. Use these networks as bounce points to your own domain, your own contents. Don’t rely on them for any perennial or relevant stuff (and if you don’t believe me, think Google Plus, think Geocities, think MySpace, all shakers and movers who went off the map with the snap of a finger). My own content is fine, thank you. Medium doesn’t earn as much money as it needs to work in the long run, so be careful in which basket you put your eggs.

But again, perhaps it’s just me.

(This applies to Facebook, Twitter, and all media platforms.)


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