Daily Archives: December 2, 2008

W(h)ither social networks? On the end of Pownce

This morning, I woke up to an email from Pownce that stated:

We are sad to announce that Pownce is shutting down on December 15,
2008.

In the rush of excitement around microblogs that followed Twitter and Jaiku, I signed up for an account on Pownce as well. I never really used it much, and that was because my network never really migrated there. I guess I posted to it sometimes through cross-posting from twhirl.

I had a few thoughts about the situation over breakfast and immediately Twittered them out:

Is social network attrition (Pownce) a natural consequence of the economy, the success of a few services, or user fatigue?

I had a number of responses to my brief question, many of which I agree with one way or the other. In fact, at least one Twitter contact responded in support of each of the three theses. Let’s drill in to each of the points, quickly:

  • Taking the success / take-off factor first, it is clear that the community never really took off at Pownce. In spite of the many problems that Twitter had around a year ago, the Fail Whale phenomenon has reduced. Google effectively killed off Jaiku as competition by not doing a thing with it, and alternatives such as identi.ca have really just foundered around. Although I have accounts on all of these services, I tend to use the one which I find most useful, accessible, and where my network lives – and right now, that’s the “big T”.
  • So the take-off factor depends on users, of course. It’s true that with a range of competing, “me-too” startups in any space, there’s an initial rush to try things out, but as people start to realise just how many things overlap, and how difficult it is for a community to port from one place to another en masse… fatigue tends to set in, and services fall out of use. Several friends commented “how many social networks do we need”? And on the data portability issue, although Pownce are letting users export their data, it does not export friends lists (which are key to the whole idea of a network) and the suggestion is that the data could be imported to a blogging platform like Vox or WordPress… er… not *quite* the same thing, folks!
  • Economically… well if you combine the first point above with the second point, no matter what the business model is, you are unlikely to have a steady revenue stream. In today’s economic climate, how do you keep going? Well, Twitter just seems to keep growing, but we hear that they have monetisation plans… I wouldn’t be surprised if lack of take-up + user fatigue –> lack of revenue and ultimate death for Pownce.

The BBC has a good piece by Bill Thompson on the recent rash of social network attrition, incidentally. Worth a look.

Ireland’s RTE news on IBM’s social software efforts

A nice story from Ireland’s RTE network on how IBM uses social software internally – it’s a good reinforcement of the message I’ve been giving in my presentations on this topic over the past few years. Oh, and it features my friend Aidy 🙂