Social networks: Last one out, turn off the lights

ONE can still see the remnants of the housing boom across America: developments in which streets were platted, concrete poured for the foundations of homes and pipes laid all over for sewer, water and gas. One might even see a partially erected wall silhouetted against the horizon.The same phenomenon recurs regularly online, where services build like mad, but the population growth slows or never arrives. When the bust comes for a given offering, the end sometimes comes quickly. It staggers from burning funds ahead of revenue (if it had any), and then shutters, leaving not even a virtual footprint.A promising service awkwardly named App.net, which combined social-networking features with robust and unconditional support for third-party software developers to build on top of it, announced this week it will lay off all its full-time staff, yet not close its doors. It is in the peculiar situation of being almost, but not quite, popular enough to thrive.App.net‘s founding intent was to create the user registration, network and server plumbing that would allow third-party developers to build robust communities on top, much like developers buying plots of land in a town without running the utilities and the post office. Rather than be a clone of Twitter or Facebook, App.net set itself in opposition: it would never sell advertising to its developers’ customers, would rely …

Link to article: www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/05/social-networks?fsrc=rss

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