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Is the social web party over?

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I keep reading reports of Second Life being an overhyped piece of dead meat, and now get the same vibes about Twitter and more.

In the latest round of discussions, James Gardner and Ron Shevlin both question the worthiness of Twitter for banking, whilst an interesting survey by Purewire found that millions of Twitterati never actually tweet.

Purewire managed to analyse about 7 million Twitter user profiles and found that many Twitter users abandoned their accounts shortly after creating them:

* 40% of Twitter users have not tweeted since their first day on Twitter, which means that the account was most likely created and subsequently forgotten about; and

* Around 25% are not following anyone, while two-thirds are following less than 10 people, which probably means that the account was created but is not being used regularly.

The data also shows that most users find Twitter useful for receiving information, rather than sending or interacting:

* over a third of users have not posted a single tweet and almost 80% have less than ten tweets;

* around a third have no followers whilst 80% have less than ten; and

* 50% are following more people than follow them whilst another 30% follow the same number of people who follow them

Does this prove James and Ron's point: that Twitter is not relevant right now?

I don't think so, as I've said before.

What this proves is unclear, except that Twitter is an evolving medium which some people like and find useful for knowledge sharing whilst others find it of no interest at all.

This is why I take the view that Twitter, and other social media, needs to be considered in context as these tools are useful for communications, but this is an evolution not a static moment.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more could come and go as quickly as a politician’s seat in government, but their model of communication is here to stay. After all, these tools are just replacing Instant Messaging, Friendster and Friends Reunited with easier ways of socialising. In another few years, they may have been replaced again.

And we really need to see these tools in the context of the evolution of the web and other technologies.

For example, a decade ago AOL was one of the biggest providers of access to the online community and became so big they acquired Time Warner. Today, AOL is dead meat and broadband communications carriers along with Yahoo! lead the world.

But just for now.

A decade ago, eBay ruled the commercial community. Today, it is a withering flame.

Over a decade ago, Netscape ruled the world. Then Microsoft extinguished their fire. Now Firefox and Chrome are trying to do the same to Internet Explorer.

Therefore, we need to see the context of our web evolution and consider that what we are really seeing a phase of innovation around how we connect to each other.

This would mean that the first phase of the web was all about commerce, knowledge and search – eBay, Amazon, Expedia, Google.

The second phase is all about communications, relationships and reactive media – Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Second Life, Twitter … and this phase has not completed yet, so we have no idea who the Amazon’s and Google’s will be for this generation.

There will then be the next phase as well which will, in my view, be all about meaning, context and proactive media. Connecting me with people is great, but I want you to give my connection context. Who is the most worthy for me to connect to and through what media? When I want to buy things, recommend where to buy them. Look at my way of living digitally and tell me how to live better electronically.

This web is already close, and we can already see the strands of such proactive media.

Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook and more now tell me who I might want to connect to. They recommend to me.

iTunes, Amazon and more tell me what I might want to buy. They recommend to me.

Mint, Wesabe and more now tell me how I might want to organise my finances. They recommend to me.

Take this on one generation, and the next web will see the current tone replaced by proactive recommendation engines.

These engines will seamlessly work in my life via my mobile telephone, my web homepages and my television and more.

Then Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and other great first and second generation internet names may again whither and die or flourish and become reborn.

In the meantime, this means that denigrating the transient moments of bandwagons that spark and disappear is just pointless when the real focus is on what these transient sparks do to our way of living, socialising, buying and selling.

That’s the real point.

Meantime, those who think Web 2.0 is dead are just talking recycling materials … in other words, rubbish.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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