Enough with the new social networks

By Steve Safran 

Mashable reports that iWon is about to add a social network to its site. This raises two points: 1. iWon is still around and 2. Mathematically, adding an iWon social network will officially mean that every frickin’ site now thinks it has to have one. This is getting silly. I now have more social networks than I have actual friends.

I have a MySpace page which was fun for dirty jokes among friends for a while, but I don’t update it anymore. I am on LinkedIn and the purpose of that, as near as I can tell, is so I can say “Why yes, I am on LinkedIn.” I am part of the exclusive club of the Pownce social network – its exclusivity belonging to anyone who wants an invite. I have narrowly – narrowly – avoided joining Facebook due, in large part, to my face. (I am amplifying this to note the comments that Facebook is now referring to itself as a “social utility.” I further amplify the amplification by saying “OK, whatever.”)

So I’m not a social network curmudgeon. There’s a value to these things (especially if you own one) and they are the backbone of Web 2.0. But enough already with them. If you’re not going to reinvent the social network, don’t add to the crowd. It’s as though clueless web execs heard that social networks were big, so they decided
“Hey, let’s buy one at Circuit City.”

Social tools on the other hand are extremely valuable, and every site can benefit. Local news sites should have sharing tools, mashup tools and other social interface mechanisms galore. You can’t add too many social tools. Let people embed your video on their damn blogs, for crying out loud. What are you waiting for? More video startups that kick our ass?

iWon, along with most other sites, would be better off partnering with existing social networks. Go where the people are – don’t make them come to you. Me and my friends are busy right now. We’re sharing pictures of Cobie Smulders, thank you very much, and we’re about as social as we’re gonna get.