Sustaining Online Communities

Word on the street is that Facebook is becoming the default online community, making Linked-In, MySpace and others obsolete. I’m not so sure about this. For instance, Jay Cross, on another community site, Ning, wonders about the value of Facebook – Full Disclosure: I have Facebook, Linked-In and Ning accounts 😉

Given that the Web is now about a billion people of varying age groups, cultural and linguistic preferences, I cannot see how one platform will meet everyone’s needs. Facebook has done well by opening its platform to other applications and this is fueling its current growth. However, as much as people are adding new applications, they’re dumping them just as fast.

This week I came across a new community, Carmun, focused on the needs of graduate students. I think it has some potential for its stated niche:

It [Carmun] connects students who share academic passions. It easily organizes academic research, and it is expanding the boundaries of universities by creating a database of rated and reviewed source material. Imagine an academic community where you can tap into the intellectual horsepower of students around the country or even the world.

Each online community has to be of value to its members but it should also be open to connect with other communities. Being open has propelled Facebook to the front of the pack, but I don’t think that it will preclude the development of new communities. Maintaining a community and making enough money to operate it are the real challenges and no one has a guaranteed model for this yet.

2 Responses to “Sustaining Online Communities”

  1. Jonathan Edson

    Thanks for mentioning Carmun. I tend to agree with your point that there will be multiple social networking/media sites that people affiliate themselves with. We are all “composite” beings and expecting us to have one social network would be like expecting us to have only one set of friends/colleagues. At Carmun, we think the key is tuning the experience to a particular purpose. Thus we aspire to be the Yin to the Yang of Facebook — or the collaborative environment to help you manage your academic life to Facebook’s collaborative environment to help you manage your social life.

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  2. Becky

    I agree that I can not see everyone going to a single social networking model. I see different tools for different needs. I used linked in for managing professional contacts. Facebook is a more social less task oriented environment.
    When I look through my future seeing glasses, I see several large networks with different purposes — all controlled by the users, not the developers. And all letting the users chose which information they share and who they receive information from (a spamless world) .. wouldn’t that be nice!

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