Last year I wrote about the the music/social network combination blip.fm. That post was followed up with one on the demise of muxtape and mixwit in which I said “I hope that blip.fm does not become the next victim of the RIAA”. While blip.fm has survived to date, it may only last by significantly changing its laissez-faire approach to streaming music.
A post on their blog last week opens
In the past few weeks we’ve had to make a few difficult decisions that will change the way some things work on Blip.fm. For the majority of you the changes will be for the better, for others they might be less than ideal for the time being.
It goes on to note that music will “primarily” be sourced from the music service imeem rather than broad-based searches of the internet. Users will no longer be able to submit urls pointing to mp3s. Instead, a set of “approved” urls will be used.
This week’s storm in the blogosphere focused on the question of “authority” on twitter and other social networks. It all began when welebrity Loïc Le Meur suggested that twitter searches should be filtered by a measure of authority. This immediately elicited critical responses from other high profile members of the online world, such as Robert Scoble and Dave Winer, only to have Mike Arrington leap to Loïc’s defence.
So what is the kerfuffle all about? I’ll start at the beginning, with twitter. I’ve written about twitter many times before, but there may be a few readers who still don’t know what it is. Twitter is a microblog. It is one of many, but currently the most popular. A microblog allows users to post very short messages and links to all of their “followers” (also known as “subscribers” or “friends”, depending on the site). While it is possible to make these messages private on twitter, most people keep their messages public. As with anything publically published online, this means that these messages are visible to anyone, not just followers. In particular, they are amenable to searching. A twitter search is a powerful tool. A good example is using twitter to keep track of rapidly unfolding current events. Over the last few days, many twitter users have been posting photos, news links and opinions about the bombings in Gaza, tagging them with label “#gaza” which makes them easy to find on twitter. In amongst the predictably partisan rhetoric from both sides, it is possible to stay a step ahead of reporting in the mainstream media and gain some genuine insight into the crisis. Not so long ago, a search for #mumbai provided a similar window onto the Mumbai terrorist attack.
As is probably evident from past posts about twitter or identica, I am something of a Web 2.0 junkie. Over the last few years I have signed up for countless services and I am sure I have forgotten about far more of them than I actually use. And therein lies a problem. The rate of innovation online of late has been extraordinary, but the result is a proliferation of services that is not sustainable. With the Global FInancial Crisis progressing outside the financial sector to the broader economy, venture capitalists will be tightening their purse-strings and this will inevitably lead to a period of consolidation in the online landscape.
Early signs of this phenomenon appeared today with announcements that the social networking site Pownce, to-do list manager I Want Sandy and virtual Post-It note site Stikkit will all be closing down.
Twitter is a common theme behind these closures. Despite the backing of welebrity Kevin Rose and rich media sharing features, Pownce ultimately failed to grow at the same rate as twitter. When initially launched, the mystique generated by the invitation-only private beta version of the site attracted attention for a while, but interest seemed to wane after the site went public. Personally, I have been using twitter more and more and pownce less and less over the last year, but I will miss the friendly alien (pictured above) who appeared on pownce pages when something went awry. Somehow he is more endearing than twitter’s “fail whale”.
In my recent post on the future of Microblogging, I expressed concerns about the viability of twitter given that they are yet to find a business model. But perhaps I just wasn’t thinking laterally enough: earlier this week I stumbled across a novel approach to monetising microblogging. The new site Blip.fm brings music to microblogging in a way that initially had me scratching my head, but it is gradually starting to make more sense. Based on a recent post on the Microblogger’s blog, 140char, others are responding in much the same way.
I have been an enthusiastic user of twitter for quite some time now, but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is unlikely to survive, at least in its current form. This is partly because they will struggle to build a business model to start paying off their venture capital backers. But more importantly, it is because twitter is a closed system and that will ultimately constrain its potential.
Social networks have been growing at an extraordinary rate over the last couple of years. The big contest has been between Facebook and MySpace and recently Facebook was reported to have caught up with its older rival. These two social networking giants aim to be walled gardens where users can chat, exchange photos, share music, take quizzes and (more bizarrely) turn each other into virtual vampires.
A more minimalist approach is the microblog. Twitter pioneered the idea of the microblog, asking its users the question “what are you doing”, a question to be answered in 140 characters or less. You are also able to “follow” other twitter users, tracking their posts (or “tweets”) and they may choose to follow you back. Twitter has been growing rapidly over the last year (see chart below) and recently exceeded two million registered users and countless other sites are now following hot on their heels, including jaiku, pownce, identi.ca and kwippy.