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Whatever happened to innovation on social networks?

Enrique Dans
Nov 30, 2020 · 3 min read

Sadly, I couldn’t agree more with this article in Business Insider: innovation in social networks is dead.

The arrival of fleets on Twitter exposes once again the widespread lack of imagination on social networks, with each copying the other, to the point that users are no longer even clear which one they are on.

Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, co-founders of Snapchat, are said to have made as many as 31 attempts in their Stanford years before launching the company, starting with an early design called Picaboo, which they came up with when they saw a classmate regretting sending a photo. I won’t speculate on the content of the photo or why the sender regretted his actions, but it is arguably one of the few cases when one would be glad for an item to go missing. Not to be outdone, and after his $3 billion takeover bid was rejected, Mark Zuckerberg decided simply to copy Snapchat, trying repeatedly until he finally succeeded with Instagram Stories.

Since then, social media executives seem to have run out of ideas. Instead they seem to be applying the maxim that “he who steals from a thief is forgiven for 100 years”, and are creating, if we can call it creating, features that are no longer just similar, but completely identical, without a trace of shame: Microsoft incorporated them into LinkedIn, a particularly egregious example, and now Twitter is following suit, in the same place on the screen, with the same nondescript look and functionality. Now, the most recent collective stupidity is to create one of those inconsequential stories, and then spend more time uploading it to every social network one after another than the time wasted creating it, so it can disappear 24 hours later. Great. If anybody had told me a few years ago we would spend our time on such tiresome nonsense, I wouldn’t have believed them.

The result is no longer just a pathetic reflection of a total lack of ideas, but the unpleasant feeling of not knowing which application or social network you’re on. An obsession with a format, that of content that disappear after a certain amount of time. What is the advantage of publishing something that disappears after a few hours? For some reason, everyone has become obsessed with this transience, this banality, with that aesthetic of some background music, notes on a photo, choreographed movements or video loops. I don’t know how long this ephemeral genre will last; all I can say is that I wish it had never started: I didn’t see any value in it then, and I still don’t, no matter how many clones continue to be generated. Some may be nicer, funnier or more imaginative, but they still seem like a complete waste of time. I still don’t understand the value in having something that you have invested time in creating disappear so quickly.

Surely, there must be more to social networks than simply recording and sharing mindless content that is erased after a few hours. There must be something else out there of value, something original, something else of interest. Something more.

It’s time to reinvent social networks; maybe I’m getting old, but it’s increasingly hard to distinguish one from another. So, I’m going to see if I can come up with a story, publish it on Snapchat, on Instagram, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and on Twitter, and I’ll tell you about it. I hope you see it before it disappears.

This article was previously published on Forbes.

(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people…

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School, blogger at enriquedans.com and Senior Contributor at Forbes

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School, blogger at enriquedans.com and Senior Contributor at Forbes

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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