I am always intrigued by highly engaged internet communities that live on platforms that are not well kept. What’s most enlightening about these specific communities is their authenticity. I’ve noticed that if you squint closely at these properties you can see important clues as to what lies ahead.
Facebook is the 7th largest company in the world by market capitalization and employs tens of thousands of the world’s most talented people. But, Facebook Groups has been virtually frozen in time since it launched over a decade ago. Still, Groups is a hugely important part of the internet. According to Facebook, more than a billion people use Groups each month.
In 2010, Andrew Parker noticed that vertical marketplaces had started forming around Craigslist categories. He wrote about this in a post entitled The Spawn of Craigslist. 6 years later it is clear that in certain Craigslist categories multi-billion dollar marketplaces were indeed created. Today, I believe we are witnessing a similar phenomenon happening around Facebook Groups. Many large vertical communities are forming around Groups’ most active categories. These categories were recently divulged when Facebook released a new Groups discover flow.
I believe maturation of the social network landscape has created an opportunity to attack specific vertical segments. This is because the horizontal networks either don’t have the requisite technology or the discipline to cater to the needs of these specific groups. The big difference between next generation networks and prior ones are at first glance they likely will not be social at all. Most will start out by building highly differentiated tools to solve problems for specific groups, but eventually, they will serve engaged communities. In a world where a handful of dominant networks commandeer most of our time, new networks need to show users early on why they are worth using, even without many people on the platform. Some important new networks, as depicted above, have already staked their claim in large categories like gaming, education, and local.
If you are building a new vertical network or a tool that could turn into one, I would love to get in touch.