Last week, Google offered to buy Path, a private mobile social network for 100 million plus a 25 million dollar earnout over four years. Path, an “anti-social network”, rejected it. This signified the beginning of the rise of the anti-social network.
Definition anti-social network: A social network that allows a limited amount of people to communicate and connect, with a user-experience created that is focused on creating a environment that is respectful to privacy.
Anti-social networks like Path would have not succeeded a few years ago. It has to do with the maturation of social media and the associated societal effects of the widespread mainstream consumption of social products.
Let’s talk about how we got here.
We are all addicted to social media. 2005-2010 really marked the golden age of social. Web startups tried to socialize everything from music (Rdio) to videos (YouTube) to business listings (Yelp). This converged with the rise of smartphones and made social media accessible everywhere, anywhere and of course, freely. The iPhone App Store allowed for the socialization of mobile with companies like Foursquare and Gowalla popularizing social check-ins.
Social media succeeded because it spoke to an inherent human need, the need to connect with one-another and to communicate. Along with that, social products had little-to-no user-acquisition costs because they were inherently viral in nature. This allowed many entrepreneurs to create social products at a low cost. This was very different than the 1990s when web companies needed to raised money through IPOs largely to acquire users.
Another inherent human need however, is the need to remain private. People don’t want to share everything. Consumers have already begun to realize how much they are losing when they are sharing (reputations, jobs…). “Anti-social networks” act as solutions for these consumers as they allow them to share, but with a certain degree of privacy.
The large social media players will not be able to be a social network and an anti social network at the same time. For example, although Facebook has added a layer of privacy features, they are largely hidden and the focus remains to create the product as social as possible. After all, their mission statement is “to make the world a more open and connected place”.
This leaves a void, an opportunity for startups like Path and Diaspora to own the anti-social network space. A plethora of interesting anti-social networks will succeed over the next few years. Welcome to the rise of the Anti-Social Network era.
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