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The Evolution of the Social Network

November 5, 2012

We often find ourselves (and I'm sure you have too) listening to conversations that raise the very legitimate question of "What the heck is Twitter?".

Now everyone knows what twitter is but that is not what this question is really asking. This question goes a step further. What is twitter, what does it do, why are people using it, why do I care to check it, what's the point? That is what the skeptics are really asking. Today I will go ahead and proclaim that I have, from a very high level, solved this question. Not just for twitter but instead for the core reasoning behind social media's explosion.

Let's start from the beginning...Geocities! Arguably being the first incarnation of social media, this was definitely for the more tech savvy kids at school. For the first time we could easily showcase who we were for the whole world to see. It gave the masses an ability to express itself to a large audience easily. It wasn't until MySpace that this became an easily accessible but standardized format that could appeal to a larger audience as it was easier to understand and digest. The biggest factor behind MySpace was our ability to easily find each other. No matter where we were we could connect our profiles and live inside our own personal cyber space with our friends.

Next it was time for Facebook to take the stage, and what an entrance it was. Facebook did so many things right. They perfected the user friendly experience, photo library, tagging friends, sharing information, and connecting people. All in a standardized fashion, and presented in feeds so that we could digest this information easier.

There was something far beyond these that really set Facebook up to be the giant that it is today. Something so simple and so basic that it went virtually un-noticed and un-appreciated until a rival company was created around it... "The Status Update". This was a quick and easy way to encourage users to keep coming back to the site because it required constant updates. "How are you feeling right now?" This simple question was the first visible stepping stone that a social network was so much more that anything we ever imagined.

This brings me to the original question, "What the heck is Twitter?". Twitter is a platform that was built to share a user's thoughts instantly with hundreds of millions of users. It took the status update to its own platform. But more importantly it is a clear step toward a global consciousness where the individual nodes (people) can communicate rapidly together to reach decisions. Currently Twitter reports over 500 Million people (1/14th the global population) are actively using Twitter and sending their thoughts across the globe in a matter of miliseconds. This is a just another step forward in what society has been building for centuries, an infrastructure where we are able to communicate effectively and instantaneously. (We still have alot of work to do!)

Now, before you look to twitter to find the collective knowledge of the human race you must understand that not every thought is a good one. For this we rely on the wiki-pedia philosophy, the intelligence of the masses is greater than any one person and it will begin to police itself as users integrate it into their daily lives.

We see multiple forms of this popping up today to continue this trend of sharing our thoughts and our experience to a large audience at the instant it is happening. Instagram had the idea of not only sharing thoughts but also what you're are seeing. Users don't just read other's thoughts but instead see what other users are seeing. This raises the question of what is the next big social network. We won't claim to know exactly what the next one is but it surely will be a tool to facilitate and expedite communication.

Now there are two ways you can view this trend, the first being negatively. We don't need to share that much, why would you care to know that, what happened to privacy? These are all valid statements and questions but are also extremely close-minded, no pun intended. The second way to view this is to be very excited, I certainly am. It is really exciting to think about billions of people using their thoughts shared instantly to make decisions. Maybe it;s exactly what we need to solve the complex problems facing our global society.

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