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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
March 07, 2008 -- Antisocial
Status: [CLOSED]

Breaker Big Luna-Kahuna! Whatz yer 20?

The Google Lunar Challenge prize application list was announced this week, and Team Cringely was conspicuous by its absence. When will your loyal readers get a full column or end-of-column sidebar about the moon team?

Norm | Mar 07, 2008 | 1:58PM

Breaker, breaker there Bob ole buddy... Social Networks existed before they were called "Social Networks" in the form of bulletin board communities like "The Well." Sure, the technology and its providers may change but the key point is that technology is used to facilitate human interactions.

It's really quite basic, technology is used to address human needs. Those who make the technology more human will succeed.

D. B. | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:05PM

I dumped my Outlook contacts into Plaxo when I switched to Google Apps, and now it won't let me access the list because there are too many names. Customer Support got strangly silent when I explained the problem to them in small words. I do real (networking) business on LinkedIn and Facebook, and I can see the day when Facebook and SharePoint become twins reunited in first grade. My MySpace account subtitle says it all, "I'm only here to spy on you." Just ask my 13-year-old daughter.

Randall | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:14PM

Close. The CB became mass-popular immediately following the release of "Smoky and the Bandit." Kind of like the modem becoming mass-popular immediately following the release of "War Games." In both cases, the devices were starting to hit a magic price-point. And in both cases, the established communities hated all the newbies!

Scottybe | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:30PM

Bob -

I tend to agree with you, however I think you are glossing over the basic human motivator of esteem and a litle higher level Sel-Actualization thown in. Hat tip: Maslow.

The one thing Social Networks have going for them that CBs never did is this esteem factor. I think you underestimate the value to the average person of the online preening, peer recognition and need to display achievement that these networks enable at a level never seen before. Not to mention just updating their own picture of themselves.

The other thing - there are generational dynamics at play here. On the whole, the degree and method with which people over 25 socialize online is markedly different from those over 25.

Take the time to talk to the teenage and college set about and really look at these self-promotion and usage dynamics. I hate to quote Balmer, but there is a "fad"-ishness to much of this, but due to the aforementioned reasons there is also some stickiness inherent in the medium.

JP | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:34PM

Oh so right, and I thought it was just me who got bored with Xing et al...

Konstantin | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:34PM

Social networking may be like schooling behavior in fish. And we all know what happens when the change of direction or migration begins. Suddenly but subtly the mob moves on. Given that most folks are operating in the red zone of Change it won't be long before we're all off to the next big thing or little thing with feature/performance enhancements. ADHDTV anyone?

TC Taylor | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:38PM

No, Richard Nixon did not decide to impose the speed limit all on his own authority. CONGRESS created and passed the bill which established the limit, and Nixon signed it.

But - let me guess - that would mean including Democrats in the "responsible" list (since Congress was run by Democrats at that time), so it seemed a bad idea to mention their involvement in that stupid law.

Calvin Dodge | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:42PM

ADHDTV anyone?

Goodness, aren't we there already? I'm so ready for a book club-bowling team-sewing bee.

GuyFromOhio | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:44PM

10-4 there asciiboy...

it's strange, but i remember the day my entire family decided cb was a drag... my entire extended family of 1 great-grandparent, 2 grandparents, 7 grandchildren(I was one of them) and a dog named Rex. Yeah, we're from rural NC, and were right in the mainstream of the cb culture. The entire cb system, which we spent so much time buying, building, modifying to get the range we needed to get the Interstate traffic, all that went to the landfill in a day.

It just got old... over.

Jon | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:45PM

ADHDTV anyone?

Goodness, aren't we there already? I'm so ready for a book club-bowling team-sewing bee.

GuyFromOhio | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:46PM

10-4 there asciiboy...

it's strange, but i remember the day my entire family decided cb was a drag... my entire extended family of 1 great-grandparent, 2 grandparents, 7 grandchildren(I was one of them) and a dog named Rex. Yeah, we're from rural NC, and were right in the mainstream of the cb culture. The entire cb system, which we spent so much time buying, building, modifying to get the range we needed to get the Interstate traffic, all that went to the landfill in a day.

It just got old... over.
and over. KIA2874

Jon | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:48PM

Bob said:
"This is clearly the company pruning its subscribers in anticipation of an acquisition in the next couple quarters. There is no other reason to do it."

Sure there is a reason. It has to do with the values of the community. Facebook is successful because it encourages users to be more selective about who they link with and claim as friends, and because it encourages users to post their real names and information. It also gives users the privacy controls to manage this information effectively.

MySpace encourages users to friend everyone, which is why the connections in that space are meaningless. It's also partly responsible for why they're having privacy nightmares beyond people exploiting their software. If your 14-year-old daughter has 15,000 friends...that friend may decide to post a picture from her "private album" somewhere else.

MySpace is for kids. Facebook is for adults.

Now...FB has a very, very high annoyance factor right now. Inviting people to install an application just so they can participate in a game or take a quiz or whatnot is inelegant and annoying. If FB doesn't solve this swiftly, someone else will. They may take a page from the games space - Nintendo allows DS owners to send demos of their games to other DS owners to try out (if the game supports it). When they shut their DS off, the demo goes away.

In my Facebook notification tray I have hundreds of requests to install applications. I ignore almost all of them because I hate having to deal with the application installation process, and then having to periodically clean up my own page of apps I tried only once.

The social network site that figures out how to let users share rich content in a less obtrusive way is the one that is going to win.

Dan | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:50PM

The comparison between MySpace and Facebook is important. The UI decisions made for each site really reflects the user base. Facebook has a lot of white and is mostly free of ads giving the app a clean feel. Even the ads that exist are static and conform to the layout and design of Facebook.

Myspace on the other had has outlandish flashy ads that are inserted in every place possible. Users who want their myspace site to be 100% custom will stick to Myspace.

Given the distinction between the two sites I think there will always be a market for both to bypass consolidation. There will always be users that want a clean look and others that want a wilder dirtier look to suit both personality styles. Even as other social sites crumble I think these two sites will stand when all is said and done.

Besides looks, JP refers to this in his comment, the Long Tail theory prevails in these social spaces and dealing with the facebook app as a whole only applies to the companies profits. Facebook is really an aggregate of small social circles based on old and new relationships. So long as there is a human tendancy for the creation and destruction of social circles, and there is a desire to connect in some way, the leading social apps will stand to serve its pages.

rb | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:54PM

I've already withdrawn -- I was a twitterific user for about a month until I decided that its interruptions, normally just idle chatter, weren't worth the time it took to read them. Deja vue all over again, too -- I lugged a CB radio around for a while too and dumped it for the same reason.

NovaScotian | Mar 07, 2008 | 2:56PM

Hmmm... I remember that CompuServe marketed their early online chat service as a "CB Simulator", making the leap from CB to IRC in one hop.

If we can torture the analogy even more, the better comparison might be with FRS radio, a low power unlicensed band meant for hikers and campers (FRS actually stands for "Family Radio Service"). These tiny, underpowered handsets which are far less capable than CB are used all over the place, but not in the woods where they are all but useless. Instead they are in the hands of mail clerks, pizza delivery guys and valet parking attendants everywhere. Is this the future of social networking, getting subsumed at the periphery of the business software market?

Ian | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:02PM

Nice article. You're probably right. But I can't believe you didn't write about the biggest tech story of the week: the gamechanging iPhone SDK.

Maybe next week?

AS | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:03PM

like that is sooooo yesterday. My grandmother is on facebook.

scott | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:03PM

Aww Shucks, Bob Cringely has once again overlooked the art: Ham Radio. And yes, there still are many adherents to it. It still is an art form.

Nevertheless, I don't understand why so many web sites formed around a concept that has been around for nearly as long as the infamous Computerized Bulletin Board System: What about NNTP news?

The whole 'Blogging thing, the whole Slashdot thing, all that technology merely puts a pretty face on that original: networked news-groups.

And the thing that soured most people on news groups (even though they're still alive and kicking) is that ANYONE can participate. That's what happened to CB Radio: Too many idiots. After a while people just got disgusted trying to hear and be heard over the noise.

No Bob, the thing that dooms all social networking systems is something they seek: Popularity. With popularity, comes an inevitable few idiots. It doesn't take many. And they inevitably spoil the forum for everyone.

Jake Brodsky | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:03PM

Nice article. You're probably right. But I can't believe you didn't write about the biggest tech story of the week: the gamechanging iPhone SDK.

Maybe next week?

AS | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:05PM

like that is sooooo yesterday. My grandmother is on facebook.

scott | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:06PM

Another factor in the adoption of CB ca. 1976 was Jimmy Carter's wife, who complained about the length of time required to get a CB license, and the lack of channels (14). Both were promptly changed, and fueled the takeoff.
Good article, nice touch of history and context for your younger readers...

Dr. Bill Wiecking | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:08PM

I get invited to a social network, usually business related, about once a month. I joined the first one and never went back. No desire to be social that way.

I don't know what is going on outside the US with regard to social trends, but one of the reasons we we are seeing such a huge drive toward internet social networks is, people do not know their neighbors.

There are very few places here in the US where you can find an active community, and this is important, where you live. The computer is bringing these virtual communities to the home.

Will the networks collapse, maybe. But the business model is filling a need. People want to belong to a community.

Dave | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:10PM

Well said.

threegs | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:10PM

The 'ol Double-Nickel sux. I've still got my Cobra unit, Good Buddies!

David B. | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:15PM

Facebook has always operated on a system of real names. That was the point in the beginning, and they are keeping it that way. It only makes sense that they would require a non-anonymous address. Right? Since that's what the service was built on?? Non-anonymity? Yes.

Joel | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:26PM

Yeah I agree, I wish I could short facebook stock

Adam | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:34PM

The whole social network thing has been 'overexposed' with mainstream journos gushing about the phenomenon with poorly crafted items about the spread of, the DANGER of! etc.

But as said by others, the general model has existed for a long time, back to bbs days. And Cringely is a generation or 2 removed from (and I don't think has kids the right age) the heavy users - teens/tweens/20s whose lives revolve totally around these sites. They may morph and merge, but aren't going away for a while. Grumpy old b@stards are not the key demographic (I put myself in that category too).

One other thing to note though - no loyalty. Bebo is the trendy new kid on the block here in NZ, MySpace was old years ago, and Facebook is fading.

obo | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:35PM

I remember very fondly the old Compuserve forums. There was a real sense of community in those forums that doesn't seem to exist now. Maybe we need to go back to the blank screen with white text and get rid of all these graphics.

TinRoof | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:35PM

cranky today, aren't we? anyway, you're fond of talking about your kid, so let me ask you: are you equally annoyed with the way he grows tired of his toys, and constantly wants new ones? that's all social networking is: a toy, a fun distraction, that you could also compare to the hula hoop. did you seriously think it would change the world?

zzz | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:36PM

Lots of 4wd (4x4) clubs still use CB for communicating with each other as they drive around.

Dr Nic | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:37PM

Bob, there's something that you and I don't understand about social networking sites. The reason we don't understand is because we're too old - we're the same ones who thought that SMS messaging would never take off (and then that it would never last) because who would bother tapping in short messages using an infernal mobile keypad when we could phone each other for not much more?
I'm sure we'll see a lot of consolidation in social networking sites, but seeing how it has changed the way that yours and my kids communicate, I can't help but think that the lack of tolerance that us old fogies have with these sites makes us blind to their true utility.

Damian | Mar 07, 2008 | 3:39PM

What I want to know, is what happened to all of the Dead Heads after Jerry died? And then where did they go after Phish stopped touring?

Dave Brown | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:00PM

Now that's the most sensible thing I've heard about "social" networking in a while.

A friend of mine who works with college students got me plugged into Facebook. He said all the college students were using it and it was "the thing". I signed up (I'd missed the Myspace fad) and though it was fun for a week, I eventually got annoyed. For example, I get an email telling me I have a message waiting at Facebook. So instead of getting the message I have to go to Facebook to get it. Obviously Facebook needs to get me to view the adds, but no real communicative value added to me.

I think Twitter is the same thing. I haven't started using it because WHY do I care what you're doing every minute of the day and how much time would I waste updating my status during the day. Maybe if you're really mobile it would be useful.

Maybe I'm being a Luddite, but give it a few years. If it's mainstream and somehow really useful, then fine. But I don't need one more blinky window on my desktop sucking my time away.

I think you're dead-on Cringley.

AJ | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:03PM

Facebook had a real opportunity to do something great but they blew it (proving the Zuckerberg is more lucky than visionary). Had they begun by letting applications live outside Facebook and use Facebook data (the social graph), he could have transformed the web as a million Facebook mashups flourished, much like they did in the early days of Google Maps. Everyone would have needed a Facebook account in the same way everyone needed an email address, because it quickly would have become the de facto standard for making social applications work on the web.

Instead, he launched a closed platform built on the ancient notion of creating a portal and trying to keep everything on Facebook, in some insane plan to be the next Microsoft.

The end result is that a gazillion "Superpoke" applications cluttered what was once a very clean and very useful application for college students.

Anyway, that chance is now gone, and I think you're absolutely right here.

Eric | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:21PM

Wait a sec - I came here looking for a monolithic dis on jobs and the new business iphone and I get a summery of Smokey and the Bandit?

Where is the segue from CB to Job's web enabled phone, they have approximately the same adoption rates.

cayley vos | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:21PM

Wait a sec - I came here looking for a monolithic dis on jobs and the new business iphone and I get a summery of Smokey and the Bandit?

Where is the segue from CB to Job's web enabled phone, they have approximately the same adoption rates.

CVOS man | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:22PM

I think the poll option answers are stupid and should be removed! Why is he judged as greedy either if he sell or doesn't sell? What is difference about Mr. Zuckerberg than any other founder/CEO of a successful startup? Tell us readers or make the poll answer more thoughtful.

Terry | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:28PM

I now have 5497 friends I've never communicated with.

Mike Farmer | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:34PM

I bet you are going to catch a lot of heat for this article, Cringely.

Keep it up!

RHL | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:43PM

The iPhone sucks. So does Steve jobs. Is he dis'd enough for you?

bgates | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:47PM

Actually, this post just gave me an idea for a CB-radio based art project...

Reed | Mar 07, 2008 | 4:48PM

I think you're bang on. It's great for occasionally checking in to see photos of your cousin's new baby, but ir's just not sustainable.. Just like a million other sites, except for google ads, there is no real business there.

Lee in London | Mar 07, 2008 | 5:02PM

Wow, you've still got it. Your analogy is spot on.

Shii | Mar 07, 2008 | 5:05PM

The top companies will linger but no longer as just "social networking" sites. They will morph into platforms for providing services for members. You're already seeing the transition today with MySpace and Facebook's application platforms and Google's OpenSocial. In effect, Google and Yahoo already have the world's largest social networks by virtue of all those account members. All they need to do is set up the cross-linked services for their members to create relationships and jointly use services. Expect a "shakeout" coming soon that will leave just 2-3 big "social platform" players, in the same way the search engine market got pruned. I think the real question is if MySpace and Facebook will be able to stay afloat and relevant once Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have developed proper social platforms and applications for their account holders.

Patrick | Mar 07, 2008 | 5:34PM

I think people genuinely have fun on Facebook and alike and they do make some money from ads, maybe they're not going to buy out Yahoo! But that doesn't mean they can't pay their bills and drive a Benz.

The Apps thing is pretty lame on Facebook, very few are worth while and they need to tone back the annoy-o-factor on them.

As for your facebook app.... if they can press a call button they can use a normal call-button box that already calls 911 for them, and their computer doesn't have to be on...

Noah | Mar 07, 2008 | 5:39PM


I love your articles; everything that you have written has helped me in one way or another. Some say that you are only 5% right on your predictions, but hey, I can live with that and have for many years, its better then 0%. Don’t stop giving it like you do. I have to agree 100% on your view of the Social Networking madness. It’s RIP is near. There’s only so much we can take before it becomes that same song that keeps playing on the radio, over and over, pretty much like “Ice- Ice Baby. Maybe one day you will be writing about me. Thanks from Dallas Texas

Albert Raggio
A big fan of your views.

Albert Raggio | Mar 07, 2008 | 6:10PM

Bob, for once, you are wrong.

Social network sites will always be here, thanks to the "toy manufacturer's law" - which says that as your old customers get older, a new generation of kids comes along who haven't seen what you're selling.

The younger the market, the faster the cycling of old into new.

This sometimes skips a generation: Gen 1 starts the craze, then gets bored. Younger Gen 2 see that Gen 1 is bored and skip the craze, thus leaving the field open for Gen 3 to get the craze again.

This cycling can be as little as a few years, or as long as 6-10 years.

And the main reason: Social Networking is, like CB radio, a form of Communication, but far more practical and powerful, as well as allowing pictures and movies and etc etc.

Communication makes the world go around, especially for the young show-offs and wanna-be's.


William Donelson | Mar 07, 2008 | 6:17PM

You claim that social networking is about to crash and burn, yet you have all the normal social book markers live on your posts. Hmm...

Don | Mar 07, 2008 | 6:20PM

While you were putting this up, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired was telling Charlie Rose almost the same thing. :>D So I not only think you're 'spot on', but also in good company !
Thanks, and nice work !!

Jim Benn | Mar 07, 2008 | 6:29PM

Social networking sites have problems because they change the friendship dynamic to differ from reality. In reality, it is harder to make friends than it is to get rid of them. To get rid of a friend, you can just reduce the time you spend with them, call them less frequently, and simply have the friendship dwindle.

Social Networks make adding a friend easier than removing them. You have to explicitly reject or delete the friendship links of people you don't want to hang out with. This is a big social burden. Since people can't really get rid of friends without causing social drama, the Social site will simply accumulate lots of non-friends until the entire site becomes useless for the user. Then they either setup a new account, or start reducing their use of the site.

Social networks will still be around, however any individual network will probably collapse or stagnate after 5-6 years, just like all those old friendships you used to have.

William Crim | Mar 07, 2008 | 7:16PM

@ William: Bob is not saying no social site will survive, but that only a few will make it big enough to get bought, and then investors will lose interest. Investors have a little bit of a longer cycle than toy cycles.

And if every site starts adding a profile and find friends w/ common interests widget and groups and chatting... then I predict it will just be taken for granted and noone will go to a site where that's the only focus.

spriteless | Mar 07, 2008 | 7:18PM

I think the exact opposite will happen. Pretty much what spriteless said, that "every site starts adding a profile and find friends w/ common interests widget and groups and chatting" except that they'll all be interconnected and you'll have people on one site friending people on another site. (i.e. you can add someone on MySpace to your Facebook friends list.... ok, maybe that's a bad example ;). This will all be down with OpenID, FOAF, and OAuth.

Once that happens the big sites will lose the network effect that forces users who already have a social networking profile on another site to sign up with them to be 'social' with their userbase. And it really doesn't matter if the big sites want this to happen or not. The long tail of social networking sites is probably bigger than the the head, and they'll be the first to benefit from opening their borders in this way. Once the 'long tail' of small social networking sites are interacting with each other then the network effect will force the big players to open up or lose their userbase as they move to platforms that allow them to keep in touch with all their friends on the twenty to thirty, maybe even hundreds of different sites where their profiles reside.

That's why I haven't bothered to sign up to Facebook yet, because I know that one day I won't have to.

Sam Hasler | Mar 07, 2008 | 8:16PM

I am thankful that I was able to reach 77 without being interested in any Social Network other than the ones with live bodies present. It's true that most of my networks consist of people near my age, but I don't thing any of them succumbed to CB either. I'll ask around just to be sure!

Old Bobby | Mar 07, 2008 | 8:34PM

Bob is right.

Here is another analogy - usenet. Remember back in 1988 or so, how clubby and social usenet was? It was just us grad students... Then it expanded to all students, then the world, and it was over.

Ken Chin-Purcell | Mar 07, 2008 | 9:19PM

The truckers of social networks are the business people. Networks like LinkedIn -- or perhaps some other highly specialized ones -- do have a future.

Berislav Lopac | Mar 08, 2008 | 2:25AM

Email and chat are social networks, and they're still going strong. I think that the Next Big Thing will be more focused social/business services with convenient access, and that means access through a device in your pocket/purse rather on your desk at home. Mobiles have permanent network connectivity and an adequate, if small, user interface. Google, fring, and others offer email, address book, calendar, chat, and VoIP phone calls from mobiles right now. The traffic is carried at data rates over the network operators instead of the exorbitant rates that they charge for calls and text messages. And of course mobile users will be able to interact with old-timers who prefer desktop computers. We may even be able to jig up a Morse code interface ...

Trevor Turton | Mar 08, 2008 | 2:31AM

Yup, standards on Facebook sure are increasing. A couple months back, myself and several others had our profiles suspended just because we were using pictures of dogs as our profile pictures!


Sam | Mar 08, 2008 | 6:13AM

I like LinkedIn for the business networking focus, but I can see Bob's "annoyance factor" creeping in there too. More and more MARGINALLY useful tricks keep being THROWN UP on my LinkedIn Home Page. Like, I have a few business relationships with folks at AOL, but do I really need to know what all the top articles are that anyone connected with AOL is reading? No thankyou... yet there is no obvious way to sweep this fluff out of my way -- there's some annoyance for ya.

- Pete O

Pete O | Mar 08, 2008 | 6:27AM

Social networking is doomed to fail as a technology product because there is only so much banality one can stomach. The social networking aspect of CB is what killed it. With everyone chatting about what mile marker they were located, what place to get fried chicken, and what color car they were driving, there was no opportunity to inform people of speed traps.

Plus a newer and better technology came along that hastened the death of the CB radio: the radar detector. One could find "Smokey" without having to listen to a hundred idiots telling you what mile marker they had just passed on I-80.

The non-stop "invitations" to join social circles on the various social networks is equally annoying and a big reason most of those "accounts" are as quiet as the CB channels are today.

As to Bob's "I've fallen and I can't get up" application: it already exists, doesn't need a PC and certainly doesn't need the possibility that someone somewhere in the world is monitoring you at that moment. It is an automated phone call directly to the provider who does call 9-1-1 for you. Oh, and it is also a punchline on the Tonight Show.

In the interest of historic accuracy . . . Richard Nixon spent one day per week in an office in the Old Executive Office Building where he did indeed build a fire and crank the A/C. It was the day (really a part of a day) when he did the reading of all of the stuff that would cross his desk. He did not sit in the Oval Office with a fire burning every day.

The 55 MPH speed limit ("The Double Nickel") was mandated by a Democrat controlled Congress and maintained by that Congress until Republicans finally came to power twenty years later.

Nixon did sign the bill, but it was part of a larger bill dealing with the original "energy crisis" when the OPEC Arab members refused to sell us oil, driving prices from 25 cents a gallon to 50 cents a gallon.

The idiotic speed limit was maintained by Democrats not for energy efficiency, but for "safety". When it was repealed, highway death rates plumetted, showing Jill Claybrook (head of the NTSB who claimed the interstates would run red with blood if the speed limit returned to the speed everyone was driving anyway) to be every bit as uninformed as the public thought she was.

Michael | Mar 08, 2008 | 12:24PM

I'm not sure that social networks will ever go away but I do think that they will be severely hurt by the top tier bloggers and social mavens using them all as more of a hype engine than anything else

Steven Hodson | Mar 08, 2008 | 1:02PM


CB Radio did not disappear. It was transformed into cell phone communications. Like most new things, it eventually settled into the niche that it naturally serves. Today, it's almost exclusively used by truckers who still use it because it provides anonymous social communications for a distinct group for a distinct profitable purpose. Social communications will always be useful when they have a specific economic value.

Armonk Anti-Christ | Mar 08, 2008 | 2:08PM

Let's remember that social networks are just one form of social media--and social media has been growing in popularity and use since the mid 1980s. The concept is not going anywhere. However, the form which it takes may certainly change.

To view anything on the web as permanent is, one might argue, naive. In fact, And in fact Marshall McLuhan also argued that new forms of communication take on the attributes of old forms until they come into their own.

Social networks in their current form are an experiment, and a brilliant one at that. I'm more excited about the next generation of social networking, the one that puts the power of the network in the hands of the user. We are already starting to see that happen. Social networks are a very important piece of the Internet experiment and one that will take us to a new place--it will be exciting to see where exactly that is.

Laura Porto Stockwell | Mar 08, 2008 | 5:31PM

This can't be the same Cringely.

People have been drawing parallels between the net and CB radio for 15+ years -- usually on the assumption that CD radio was retarded and, therefore, comparing the net to it shows that the net is retarded (or X phenomenon on the net, whatever). Of course, what they're revealing is that, despite its lowbrow content in a lowbrow phase of a lowbrow decade, CB radio was much more interesting than we thought and is well worth a rethink. As for social networking, duh, yeah, it's the latest, greatest rediscovery of the net: Web 2.0 = Net 1.0. It'll merge with the rest and, soon enough, people will wonder what all the hubbub was about because it's all so 'normal.'

tb | Mar 09, 2008 | 10:40AM

"we flaunted CB license restrictions"

I believe you meant "flouted."

Andy Baird | Mar 09, 2008 | 1:16PM

I think some of you need to adjust the squelch on your sarcasm detectors or hop them up to channel 25- I am going to go out on a limb and say that Bob is familiar with the "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!" commercials of the early 90s.'ve_fallen_and_I_can't_get_up for those who really care to relive the original.

Mrs. Fletcher aside, I also believe Bob is trying to make an entertaining article and not necessarily delving into the political ramifications and machinations of the 55mph speed limit law and the 70s gas crisis, but I digress, anybody can read into anything and Ive been accused of being blind to it many times by my wife

Im personally going to start an anti-social networking site that allows you to specifically put in names, email addresses, and phone numbers of people you DONT care about and DONT want contacting you. Were talking about long lost acquaintances from high school you couldnt care less about, people you just plain didnt like at your last job, and your friends new girlfriend you cant stand because she has an ungodly thick Long Island accent.

Our site will be highly successful and purely ad-driven from advertisers like Hot Topc and Club the Baby Seals Foundation. That is, until it is evident, that our anti-social networking site is simply one in a sea of many parody Facebook / MySpace sites and is relegated to a 60 second perusal by a twenty-something after the first week at his first real job that he found through an old buddy of his through his MyTwitFaceSpaceHooSter account.

Kyle M | Mar 09, 2008 | 3:29PM


Very interesting article. While I am sure you are trying to avoid more Apple articles, I would love to read your views regarding the iPhone, in particular, the upcoming 2.0 upgrade and recent SDK release. I see future iterations of the iPhone and its software making the phone function a secondary feature. Imagine social networking using the iPhone; a location aware, wireless communicating, pocket computer. Wonder when the military buys a few?

Pogo | Mar 09, 2008 | 3:53PM

OK, I didn't get the CB radio craze when I was growing up and I don't get the same over exuberant premise with the likes of Facebook and MySpace.

Maybe I'm too old but I don't really care what everyone else is up to at every minute of every day. I'm more interested in what I'm doing 10 minutes from now and could care less if others know. The only value they have for me is when someone does something incredibly stupid and has earned a top place on youtube.

My daughter, on the other hand, couldn't wait for us to find a hotspot on vacation so she could check her whatever site.

KB | Mar 09, 2008 | 5:28PM

Bob, thank you for saying something that has been becoming increasingly obvious, but commentators have been reluctant to so far admit. 'Social-Networking' sites are lame. I however, see it more in terms of the 'Tragedy of the Commons' syndrome. i.e. What started out as a fertile pasture has now turned into a muddy foot-print-riddled field where a scatological ethos can easily overpower authenticity and trust.

I know someone, (who shall remain nameless) who delights in cloning people's facebook pages, (on mass), joining various groups and bombarding group members with insulting and malicious provocations, from each other. Its a "thrill", apparently, (and one that will catch on) I think the days of the mega-valuations, and even existence of these open social networks are numbered.

(somewhat relevant URL)

Simon | Mar 10, 2008 | 12:16AM

Hi Bob, in 1986 I ran a site within Digital's (DEC) 'easynet' called 'TheHouse' where each topic was someone's room. It was VERY popular for a while, but, after a year or so, we all became bored with it. Deja vu.



Jerry Kew | Mar 10, 2008 | 5:38AM

from flight global

"Ten teams enter Google Lunar X Prize Moon landing competition

Ten teams have registered for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon. They are: the Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association Astrobotic, including Carnegie Mellon University and Raytheon Chandah, founded by energy industry entrepreneur Adil Jafry Frednet, a multinational team headed by Fred Bourgeois LunaTrex, a US team led by Pete Bitar Micro-Space, a Colorado space company Odyssey Moon, a commercial enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man Quantum3, a US-based team led by aerospace executive Paul Carliner the Southern California Selene Group and Team Italia, a collaboration between several Italian universities."

where's Cringely team? :P much ado bout noting as the old bard put it...

Ricardo Reis | Mar 10, 2008 | 5:58AM

Always a joy to read your analysis.

Came here via Olive Thylmann

I too have been saying:
1) We don't need another social networking service
2) He who brings the pieces together holds the attention - pointing to the opportunities for for social network aggregators (strong influence I was able to bring to from Nokia)
3) Facebook has become an annoying Julie McCoy.

2005 was the year of the blog (like TypePad)
2006 was the year of the content aggregator (personal home pages like Netvibes)
2007 was the year of the social network (like Facebook)
2008 will be the year of the lifestream (social network and social media) aggregators (I've been playing with them, like SocialThing and others)

Let's see.

charlie | Mar 10, 2008 | 8:51AM

What killed CB wasn't annoyance or boredom, it was the next stage of technology that permitted person to person over the air communication between SELECTED parties as opposed to everyone with a CB. That advance in technology was the cell phone.
As cell phones became affordable, the limitations (and irritations) of CB rendered it obsolete.
If cell phones did not exist, CB would be a bigger industry today than it ever was, though it would likely be much different.
As far as social networking sites, that's not my bag, but then again, I have a life, so I don't need digital friends - I have real ones. But there are a lot of lonely people out there and as long as you have lonely people, you will have social networking sites. Not what I would invest in, but I don't see people getting less lonely any time soon. Social network sites will be as ubiquitous as blogs. They are here to stay and serve a purpose to their clients.

V-O-R | Mar 10, 2008 | 9:19AM

Amateur radio: Social Networking since 1897.

g1lvn | Mar 10, 2008 | 9:26AM

Yeah - forget this social networking blather. Where's Team Cringely?

Wayne - ex CBer

Wayne | Mar 10, 2008 | 10:51AM

Cell phones didn't kill CB. affordable cell phones didn't come long until the late 90s (early 00s for the US). CB radio was already long dead.

jason | Mar 11, 2008 | 5:39AM

hi my name is bob i like myspace

bob | Mar 11, 2008 | 9:00AM

Who Cares????

T | Mar 11, 2008 | 9:03AM

Who Cares????

T | Mar 11, 2008 | 9:03AM

too long

nick J | Mar 11, 2008 | 9:11AM

The people who care about these sites don't read I, Cringely, and the people who do read Bob's rants don't join the sites. Stick to the knitting Bob...

alfonso | Mar 11, 2008 | 1:13PM

Personally I like to hear (read) Bob's rants about these things. I'm no user or fan of social networking but I still like to keep myself informed.

Johnny | Mar 11, 2008 | 5:30PM

Not true,Alfonso. I am a regular reader of Cringly, and I have had a myspace account and facebook account for a few years. Granted, I use them less often as time goes on- but I do use them.

Agreeing with Bob, I am too annoyed by the constant addition of useless applications on facebook, and the lack of any real quality benifits to membership in myspace. However, does my disatisfaction mean that both these mediums will die? I don't think so. Teenagers use these platforms just as much, if not more so, than they did the phone. Even the chat services (AIM, MSN messenger) are losing out to the types of communication that facebook and myspace offer. And while the teens will keep getting older and moving away from the sites as I did, there will always be new kids to replenish those that leave.

Dave | Mar 12, 2008 | 8:49AM

I don't know about social networks becoming the new CB radio, but I'm sure starting to think Twitter is....

Graeme Thickins | Mar 12, 2008 | 9:34AM

In the future social networking will not be a Internet web destination but a feature. I cannot imagine your banking apps needing social networking, but what about CRM and other sales tools? Just a matter of time for business and enterprises to wake up to a new mode of thinking and learning.

MySpace and Facebook will probably be around in some form, but not with the price-premiums currently attached and aggregating more and more content.

Sam | Mar 12, 2008 | 10:25AM

I'm not an active user of these systems but what I don't see is the younger generation flipping these on while on the go. That is, they're texting constantly, but maybe the social network sites aren't mobile enough. The survivors will need to be if they are adding value. IMHO good buddy. (Man, does this bring back memories of C W McCall's "Convoy" - that is now 33 years old - older probably than the vast majority of Facebook/MySpace users.)

Roy | Mar 13, 2008 | 6:53AM

One of the big problems with social networking sites is that not only can your friends find you easily, but the people you'd rather not as well.

If you've gone and done your own thing for years, and suddenly because you're in a social networking site you start getting pings from people saying "Remember me? We used to go to high school together!"

Maybe the reason why the older crowd isn't into social networking so much is because they've started placing less of a value on preening for vanity's sake. When you realize how much time you spend on a site like a social networking site that could have been spent doing real live stuff, suddenly social networking doesn't seem so important.

I think Bob's got the annoyance factor and the faddishness of it down. Sure, there's probably a core group that will keep using social network sites, but like blogs, people will eventually move on or get disinterested in the constant work.

Mike | Mar 13, 2008 | 8:35AM

Don't forget "Citizens' Band" the movie, an unexpected little jewel of an ensemble piece.

But re. social networking, I think The Bob's onto something here.

Ralph Hitchens | Mar 13, 2008 | 8:44AM

Don't forget "Citizens' Band" the movie, an unexpected little jewel of an ensemble piece.

But re. social networking, I think The Bob's onto something here.

Ralph Hitchens | Mar 13, 2008 | 8:50AM

In 1972 my brother and I climbed the pine tree in our back yard with a long wire we fashioned to our new CB radios (he had his, I had mine...) with the intention of broadcasting as far as we possibly could. We knew even as nine and ten year olds we were "breaking the law" as the size of our antenna was more than what you could buy at Radio Shack. I have good memories of that experience spooking truckers in the next state and beyond, but I agree with Bob and I have to say I saw the Fall of the Social Sites a long time ago. Sure the thrill is there (like climbing to the tipsy top of a tree in the breeze), but there isn't much to social sites to keep them afloat after you're done say'in "Breaker, Breaker" a few times to some friends or some strangers.... Cash In Investors!

natalis | Mar 13, 2008 | 9:55PM

OK - I admit. I come from the era of CB radios and remember sitting in my friends house with their CB radio in the kitchen and listening to all the chatter about who just got in what tractor accident and who got picked up for drunk driving! Those were the days for sure! With social networking, I have decided long ago that I have no interest in Facebook and MySpace, but instead, keep it strictly to business networking with Linked In. I cannot tell you how many emails I get on a daily basis with invites to (e.g.) "join whiz, the new very best business networking website and keep in contact with all your friends and business associates". This has become such a huge pet peeve as I have no interest in some silly start up with no business plan. Linked In is the best and only site I use and I love the fact that they keep most of the personal sillies out of it. I have to hand it to them - a very professional, easy to use site.


Christine Corden | Mar 14, 2008 | 3:34PM

"flaunted" CB license restrictions? Wow, you must've been pulling an all-nighter to get this one out.

flaunted = to display ostentatiously. You "flaunt" wealth, you "flout" the law.

Bruce | Mar 19, 2008 | 1:17PM

nice post | Mar 20, 2008 | 4:43AM