Social Media is Just the Next Logical Step in Technology

originally posted in Concept Hub

One of the most popular blog posts on this blog (based on stats and offline conversations) is “How Social Media Became a Speeding Bullet.” Although for some people it may seem like one day they woke up and everyone was saying to blog or sending a friend request, the reality is technology has been moving toward social software since the beginning of the Internet.

State of Online Communications and the Affect on Organizations

How the Internet has evolved from controlled messages to interconnected communities of trusted peers

The Internet began to hit the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s. It revolutionized the reach of an organization’s message. For a modest investment, anyone could set up an online storefront, broadcast their message to an email list, create a shopping cart, and manage data.

The same technologies that revolutionized the way organizations communicated and interacted with the external audience also revolutionized the way organizations communicate with their peers, staff, vendors, and partners. EDI(Electronic Data Exchange) an inter-company, application-to-application communication of data in a standard format for business transactions (Source: Wikipedia) allowed organizations to get just in time relevant information which decreased the cost of storage, shipping and provided valuable insights to purchasing trends.

Behavioral Marketing – Analytics and Cookies ( was one of the first companies to employ web cookies or just cookies, which are parcels of text sent by a server to a web browser and then sent back unchanged by the browser each time it accesses that server. Web cookies are used for authenticating, tracking, and maintaining specific information about users, such as site preferences or the contents of their electronic shopping carts.

Because of the user data that was able to collect, they were able to provide a customized level of service to their customers by recommending books and other products based on past purchases of their collective customers.

Such algorithms have evolved to sites such as Pandora and StumbleUpon which customize radio stations and web surfing based on what the users tell the system they like or do not like.

The Technology the enables the Internet – Why Open Source is Such a Big Deal
Today the modern living room contains more computing power than was used to land Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969. The critical component of rapid technological innovation is low barriers to development and the ability to collaborate with peers for Rapid Application Development, a methodology that involves iterative development, and the construction of prototypes.

In the early and mid-90s Rapid Application Development and Graphic User Interface, a type of user interface which allows people to interact with a computer and computer-controlled devices, lowered the barriers for developers to create customized solutions or to customize pre-package solutions. However, with the barriers to development lowered, communities of developers began to explore solutions that rivaled the big players in technology such as Microsoft, IBM, and Sun.

In 1992 Linus Torvalds began to work on a non-commercial replacement for MINIX. His system would later become known as Linux and proved that a community of volunteer developers could create a system that could rival and in some opinions outperform systems that were developed by corporate employed developers.

Almost 10 years later, Wikipedia was launched with the goal of gathering all the world’s knowledge. Articles are submitted, edited, and reviewed by volunteers in our global community. To date, there are over 5 million registered editor accounts and Wikipedia gains over 1,700 articles a day. Although credibility has been in constant debate, Wikipedia has managed to create guidelines and forums that have improved the credibility of each article. Today more than 33% of Americans reference Wikipedia as a primary reference source. (Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project). At the beginning of 2007 Wikipedia ranked 9th as the site with the most unique visitors according to comScore Networks Inc.

Today applications are being developed with Open Standards, a standard that is publicly available and has various rights to use associated with it (Source: Wikipedia). Open Standards have enabled plugins, mashups, and widgets which enhances and customizes each site at a very low cost. By allowing one application to plug into another, developers have increased the viral exposure of their application, reduced the cost of development, and increase the speed of innovation.

Email as a primitive form of a social network

In 1999 Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto, a set of 95 theses, or call to action, for all businesses operating within what is suggested to be a newly-connected marketplace. This was long before blogs and social networks. Their insights came from the idea that employees can connect with each other and with the organization’s customers. The most common way to connect was email.

Email enables people to connect and communication 1 to 1 or 1 to many, without regard to time or geographic barriers. Email is also archivable and measurable. However, unlike today’s social networks, email is a closed network. You can not access the communications in an email unless the email is sent to you.

Forums and Message boards

The early days of the Internet also saw the development and rapid adoption of online forums or message boards. These are threaded discussions that are typically displayed in chronological order. They allowed for open discussions about everything from the workplace, to sports, to technology. The limitations of a forum/message board are the effort involved to find relevant information and know when content is updated.

The mid ’90s saw the first beginnings of social networks.

Sites where you can create personal profiles
Dating Sites

SixDegrees (acquired by YouthStream Media Networks in 2000)



Sites with media sharing activity


Yahoo! 360°
Bebo launched as social network
AsianAvenue launched with social network capabilities
BlackPlanet launched with social network capabilities

As of September 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 106 million blogs

•    Typepad
•    WordPress
•    Blogger

Blogs with Social Networking
•    Livejournal
•    Vox
•    Xanga
•    MySpace

After a slow start, blogging rapidly gained in popularity. Blog usage spread during 1999 and the years following, being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted blog tools:

•    Open Diary launched in October 1998, soon growing to thousands of online diaries. Open Diary innovated the reader comment, becoming the first blog community where readers could add comments to other writers’ blog entries.
•    Brad Fitzpatrick, a well-known blogger started LiveJournal in March 1999
•    Andrew Smales created in July 1999 as an easier alternative to maintaining a “news page” on a website, followed by Diaryland in September 1999, focusing more on a personal diary community.
•    Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan (Pyra Labs) launched in August 1999 (purchased by Google in February 2003)

WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) tools make writing, publishing and linking to other pages easier — specifically permalinks, blogrolls, and TrackBacks. This, together with weblog search engines, RSS and Tags enabled bloggers to track the threads that connected them to others with similar interests.

Social Media has revolutionized the Internet by enabling:

➢    The increase in the ability to discover and connect with people of common interest.
➢    The increased ability to connect communities of people within other communities of people.

•     33% online Americans who say the internet has improved the way they pursue hobbies and interests

•     Entertainment is the third most popular blog subject (about 7%)

•     30% said the internet provided information that allowed them to compare options

•     28% said the internet helped connect them to expert or professional services

•     Nearly 17M Americans say the internet had played a crucial or important role in them helping another person with a major illness or medical condition

•     37% of bloggers cite “my life and experiences” as a primary topic of their blog
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project – 2006

People find content through sources they trust.
These sources can range from online news sources to blogs, and their peers.  Especially their peers!!

Networks of people create communities of trust.
➢    Each of these communities has different cultures and rules as to how they communicate.
➢    Cultures, rules, and activity on a site are sometimes influenced by the software.
➢    Each social networking site is it’s own community.
People are part of multiple communities!!!

According to a research report, “Engaging Advocates through Search and Social Media,” released in December 2006 by Yahoo! and comScore Networks, not only is social networking’s influence on marketing growing, but particularly vocal individuals are having more of an effect than ever.

Dubbed “Brand Advocates,” these are consumers who spread opinions via word of mouth, as well as over social networks, instant messaging, chat, photo sites and blogging. Such advocates have at least a two-to-one rate of converting an actual friend or family member to buy the same exact product or brand they support, according to the report.

Brief History of the Peer to Peer Sharing Culture

The viral nature of the Internet via video, photos, podcasts, links, comments, trackbacks.

The first generation of peer-to-peer file sharing networks had a centralized file list. In the centralized peer-to-peer model, a user would send a search to the centralized server of what they were looking for. The server then sends back a list of peers that have the data and facilitates the connection and download.

The first file-sharing programs marked themselves by inquiries to a server, either the data to the download held ready or within appropriate different Peers and so-called Nodes further-obtained so that one could download there. Two examples were Napster (today using a pay system) and eDonkey2000 in the server version (today likewise with Overnet and KAD – network decentralized). (source: Wikipedia)

Decentralized Peer-to-Peer sharing is what is enabling the rapid growth of social media and accelerated innovation.

When Facebook opened up its API to 3rd party developers it allowed for a new type of file-sharing service to emerge. and are two examples of companies that have specific Facebook Applications that allow file sharing to be easily accomplished between friends. (source: Wikipedia)

This trend is described in detail in regards to how it relates to organizations in the book Spider and Starfish, The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.

Starfish organizations, on the other hand, are based on completely different principles. They tend to organize around a shared ideology or a simple platform for communication- around ideologies like Al-Qaeda or Alcoholics Anonymous. They arise rapidly around the simplest ideas or platforms. Ideas or platforms that can be easily duplicated. Once they arrive they can be massively disruptive and are here to stay, for good or bad. And the Internet can help them flourish.

So in today’s world starfish are starting to gain the upper hand.

How can Toyota leverage starfish principles to crush their spider-like rivals, GM and Ford? How did tiny Napster cripple the global music industry? Why is free, community based Wikipedia crushing Encyclopedia Britannica overnight? Why is tiny Craigslist crippling the global newspaper industry? Why is Al Quaeda flourishing and even growing stronger? In today’s world to answer this it is essential to understand the potential strength of a starfish organization.

Creative Commons
Share, Remix, Reuse – Legally

Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”


By allowing others to share, remix or reuse intellectual or creative property and still reserve some rights, such as attribution, an organization or individual enables viral marketing and encourages the creation of new innovations.

The revenue model shifts from R&D and then Marketing to Marketing and then R&D with an emphasis on customization and upgraded services.

Just like the communication technologies that enabled e-commerce sites also revolutionized internal communications and enabled electronic data interchange, today’s collaborative tools are revolutionizing how teams of people connect, receive just in time relevant information, and collaborate on shared sections of different projects.