Why decentralized social networking never makes it — ever heard of Crossing the Chasm?

Why decentralized social networking never makes it — ever heard of Crossing the Chasm? by Remove term: Johannes Ernst Johannes Ernst

Every now and then, the “why hasn’t decentralized social networking succeeded” discussion pops back up. And inevitably, that motivates somebody who thinks they can do better. They proceed to design a new set of decentralized networking protocols, write lots of code, and get early adopters to enthusiastically adopt the New Thing. Which then, inevitably, never grows beyond a certain size.


Rinse and repeat.


How many times has that now happened? And keeps happening?


Has anybody considered that perhaps the protocols weren’t the problem? Or whether the code was written in one language or another, or did or didn’t use HTML5 or other cool new tech?


The problem — and it is the same problem that is never being addressed — is that your decentralized social networking app doesn’t actually solve any of your users problems that haven’t already been solved! And often fails to solve problems that the centralized guys have solved and that their users depend on.

I’ll be pleasantly surprised if anyone on micro.blog reads and responds to this.

Author: Khürt Williams

I work in application security architecture and I live in Montgomery Township, New Jersey with my wife Bhavna. I am passionate about photography. Expect to find writing on cybersecurity, tropical aquariums, terrariums, hiking, craft breweries, and bird photography.

5 thoughts on “Why decentralized social networking never makes it — ever heard of Crossing the Chasm?”

  1. @khurt All are means by which communities (networks) can communicate with each other (socialising). I'm not sure I follow what further explanation is required.

    Indeed, your subsequent messages seem to concede all are social networks, but then appear to suggest e-mail and the web don't count because they've been made accessible by large companies (so?) and IRC doesn't count because it's only used by geeks (the OP is specifically about targeting particular communities so the fact this is the case suggests it's a perfect fit for what he's talking about).

    For what it's worth, I actually agree with one of the key thrusts of the OP, namely that user utility is what's important. I merely think he overstates the case and, in so doing, potentially misses understanding how to build successful decentralised social networks.

    1. Email is centralized. Most email accounts are owned by a network. Blogging is centralized. Most blogs exists on tumblr and WordPress.com.

      IRC is not a successful decentralized network.

      I’m glad you agree that the technology needs to be more accessible. We would be having this exchange without me posting a link to a centralized network.

  2. @khurt E-mail, the web and IRC are three decentralised social networks that I'd say have 'made' it. That said, they're all very old and it's fair to ask why decentralised networks since then have failed.

    1. Email spread because network players such as Google, Yahoo etc. gave away accounts. I’m 51. I was around before email addresses were a thing.

      Blogs took off when Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress.com etc. lowered barriers to entry. I was around when it happened. And I know what came before.

      If unreliability is a feature, then I guess success has been achieved with IRC.

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