This Week In Social Commerce — May 23, 2013

By Ellie Cachette 

While everyone is talking about Tumblr’s acquisition as a one-man show at $1.1 billion, Yahoo! paid $3.5 billion for Geocities back in 1999 with only 19 million uniques compared to Tumblr’s 300 million uniques, so, in some sense, Tumblr is a good deal.  While this latest acquisition seems like a big one, it’s also symbolic of what internet traffic is worth now in scale and shows that social blogging networks are not just traffic platforms, but strategic internet real estate.  Tumblr, where anyone can blog and share others’ blogs, has also become mainstream, so is everyone blogging now? Is that the future of consumerism?

Besides obvious social sharing, this week’s theme in Social Commerce is sharing both content and legal liability, and here’s why: everything can be shared now, from a picture memory to car rides to assistants. Where are all the new rules for this landscape?

ZipCar, CarShare, and GetAround are just a few examples of car sharing, but then there’s “ride sharing” services like Lyft, Uber, RelayRides, SideCar, etc., and when you don’t even have time to borrow a car, there’s always Zirtual, TaskRabbit, Exec and other programs to help you find someone to do an errand for you.

As for birthdays, now you don’t even need to borrow a car or an assistant — a virtual gift can be sent via Facebook gifts, which has been steadily growing as the program builds around holidays like Mother’s Day and suggestions (remember Facebook Credits?)

Sharing the costs of bills in groups is easier now too with Paypal and Square and other apps for splitting costs. Some are even arguing that Bitcoin is the ultimate collective currency. So what’s going to happen to all the existing rules and legal liabilities that are in place, especially when everything is shared? How will responsibility be shared when a virtual assistant makes a mistake or a car accident happens during a car share experience? And what about sharing incorrect information that could easily be re-blogged and retweeted in real time?

Traffic is Cheap

Geocities sold to Yahoo! in 1999 with a fraction of the users as Tumblr. Sharing is more important, but cheaper than ever, so it seems that true consumerism is actually shifting to be more efficient and trade-based to maximize products and time. Maybe the biggest trend here is actually that consumers are consuming less and becoming producers more, so in the end, who really is the buyer? All of us? Is the future in collective social purchasing? No matter how social, the future of how things are “consumed” is starting to look more like communism, but instead of a nation state in control, we might be looking at platforms as the state.

Sharing is Caring

In true consumerism, the means of production and demand are on the individual level within a “free market,” whereas communism is more regulated and part of a planned economy, but when social commerce and sharing go sour, it’s the state that will have to step in to remedy the situation. So if all our apps keep helping the hyper-sharing that social commerce has to offer, we may be looking at the worst of both worlds, or a new method of consumerism all together. Digital socialism? Socialized consumerism? With Google, Facebook and Yahoo! on huge acquisition sprees, there’s no doubt that the future lies somewhere between the landgrab of platforms and trends of how people are sharing with one another. Let’s see if Bitcoin really becomes the medium. That could be interesting for online commerce. Anyone remember the debate around Facebook as the new government?

Image by america365.