Jun 22 2012

Social Lock-in

Imagine that you want to get a cell phone. Your friends and family are on Sprint, but T-Mobile is offering you a far better package. The phone they offer you has a more intuitive interface, their prices are more affordable, and they even have better signal in your area. Still imagining, Sprint and T-Mobile don’t allow cross-network communication. Sprint users can only call and text message other Sprint users. Same with T-Mobile. Unbelievable, right?

Yet, this is current state of social networks. With most people on Facebook, the choices of Google+ or Twitter or Diaspora or whatever don’t matter, since your friends won’t be on them. Since the networks don’t have any way to share data, such as posts or photos, between each other, no one can use a competing network, unless they’re entire family and group of friends move over. Each of those people also have the same barriers to leaving. Effectively, that leaves Facebook as the network monopoly.

With this built-in “network effect,” there is no way to compete. It doesn’t matter if Google+ or Twitter improve their own systems. It’s too difficult to attract people to leave The Facebook, since their friends might not be convinced to make the move also. So everyone sits where they are, and Facebook is free to have an inferior product, because they’ve already won.

Both Twitter and Google+ have better websites and mobile applications, but none of that matters, because of the Facebook lock-in.

  • #facebook
  • #twitter
  • #google+
  • #opinion
  • #planet