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The social website eras, past and present

A couple sentences in Peter Merholz' recent blog post, Embrace the chaos caught my attention:

I worked on a project that involved user-generated content, involved user-submitted ratings, allowed for social networks through trusted friends, provided content based on algorithms informed by your behavior, and even allowed you to place site content on your own blog (kind of like how Youtube allows you to embed video on your blog). And that site was Epinions, which I worked on 7 years ago.

In the context of Peter's post, he's wondering about how much timing effects the success of systems / sites whose features depend on emergent activities (which basically means that the site is designed to allow "users" to do something, for example, share lists of friends, which then becomes the feature that makes the site useful / attractive to others.)

Part of what's interesting to me about this is how the seeming success of the current era of "web 2.0" social sites has induced some amnesia / blindspots towards other sites from earlier eras that actually provide similar feautres, but are somehow not in current fashion among web technologists.

It's a funny fashion trend, as it were— I'm rembering, say a year ago, a number of people being really excited about the new era of social sites, but seriously poo-pooing MySpace and YouTube, as if they were too web 1.0. There is much to be learned. . .

I find that so much of what's been developed on the web, even from 7-8 years ago at this point, continues to have potentials that we've yet to realize—especially with regards to the social dimension of people being people online. You know, it's still possible to meet other people, get great information, and connect in amazing ways using web technology from the previous millennium!

Of course, being involved in designing new things, I know there is much to say about why it's good and necessary to create new designs and technology. But, like fashion, while there's always a new new, the new makes what's classic more classic.

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