Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Anti-Social Networks

The first thing I should say is that MF is a genius. Two or three years ago, MF and I had caught up for a drink in Noe Valley, and were walking around in the cool evening, talking about his new venture. While talking, we kicked around a few other ideas (or mostly, he did). One of them was "Foester" -- the website where you could make "friends" with your enemies. Oh, how we laughed. It was a genius idea, impractical and ridiculous. But still genius.

Fast forward to a week chock full of interesting news and articles about the wide-world of social networking (and a note, it is nice that the notion that social networking platforms are now "utilities" is starting to take hold, for whatever little or much that means to people). I won't pass much comment on recent news, other than to highlight:

- Google's announcement of OpenSocial last week, which is the right idea, and has genuinely disruptive potential in this relatively small corner of the online world. Most charming in the announcement of this initiative is exactly who was left out of the launch of this project:
There are many websites implementing OpenSocial, including, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo,, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.
As anyone paying attention could have told you, it's exciting that we may actually have a real fight on our hands -- between a huge player who controls data and so many of the complementary utilities that a robust social network can bring value to, and a pretty big player who actually owns the current high value network, and more importantly commands the active, opted-in user base.

- Paul Boutin's article in Slate, which gets both what is exactly (and inherently) right and wrong about Facebook's ability to capitalize on their social network and user base through advertising.

- But most amusingly (and least importantly) an article from the Financial Times, that I first saw on David Byrne's blog, about Social "Hateworking." An idea whose time has arrived:
Goes under the strap line “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. Set up as a riposte to the perceived bogus nature of many online friendships, Enemybook runs off the back of Facebook. It allows you to add people as Facebook enemies below your friends, specify why they are enemies and notify them that they are enemies. You can also see who lists you as an enemy, and even become friends with the enemies of your enemies.

Similarly to Enemybook, Snubster derides the notion of social networking sites, and can run off Facebook. Users can build lists of personal enemies from their Facebook contacts, who will then be sent a snub and will be alerted that they are either “On notice” or “Dead to me”.

Modelled on the Facebook concept, and with an almost identical layout, Hatebook offers a less friendly approach to the world of social networking. You can befriend “Other haters”, and your homepage alerts you when “Other fricking idiots” contact you. The site also provides you with an “Evil Map”, marking the locations of other users. The antithesis to Facebook’s emphasis on making friends, this is an open forum for abuse and aggression.

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