Social Networking: Where The Internet Comes Down From The Clouds

I think social networking the internet way is even younger than the internet, and has more places to go, many more. The metaphor that comes to my mind is that of a tornedo touchdown. The internet is the tornedo. When you use it for social networking purposes, it is a touchdown. The results can be positively "devastating."

Look at I have some history with this site. My early enthuse for Dean got me to the site. And I got hooked. Dean moved on, I stayed on. So imagine my utter surprise when I bumped into the CEO of MeetUp, mid-westerner Scott, close to my age, who has since invited me to his office, not long after I moved into the city. I met this guy at a MeetUp. To me it was like I ended up at some party where I met a Hollywood star, something akin to it. And he is so self-effacing in presence. I guess he is one of those never-lose-your-cool, big-picture visionaries. I mean, what did I expect him or someone like him to be? Obnoxious? Look, I got the big idea! The guy is MIT Innovator Of The Year. He hosts the Tech meetup in the city.

I have told him, eBay is people meet stuff, MeetUp is people meet people. MeetUp could potentially end up the Yahoo of social networking. It is like you grow big, early, fast, then you go public. And you grow bigger. Then you conduct a lot of smart buys, like a frog eats up dragonflies.

The quicksilver market that the internet is, it is not guaranteed MeetUp or any other one site will get there. But MeetUp has the broadness that few other social networking sites have. For one, it has this definite offline component. Social networking sites that are all screen time and no face time have something fundamental lacking. But then there are some that are doing quite well. Look at these three that took up a lot of my time today: Flickr | 43Things | Delicious.

Flickr is a good example. Curiously Scott had something that was earlier than Flickr, and quite like it, but I guess Flickr is smoother in operation, sexier, and so it got bought up by Yahoo and made two people very rich very quick.

There is this another, Speed dating, I think it is such a cool concept. I went to one, if I did not get a second date does not mean my enthusiasm for the concept is any lesser! But my point is it is another of those tornedo touchdown concepts.

I think MeetUp's future lies in attempting to become the Yahoo of social networking.

And then there are a whole bunch of Friendster type companies.

In short, there are all these great ideas that started out as great companies that still have a lot of people, especially investors, people who count a little more than the rest of us, believing in them, but the breakthrough has yet to happen. One obvious criterion therefore is those who will patiently stick it out will stand a chance.

But more important than that might be the quality of a rabid hunger for rapid expansion. It is a race in time. If you do it almost as good, but are about a year late, that might be a little too late.

Since I made my trip to Scott's office, I have played with the idea of getting involved in some way. I couldn't afford to do it full time, not to get a job, because I have these ideas that I am cultivating. There is the IC idea, there is the online marketing idea, and there is the political involvement to do with Nepal. Maybe I can consult for them.

I do not pretend to be an engineer, although I have a pretty good intuitive feel for concepts in physics. But my strength is group dynamics. I think the winner social networking site will tackle the challenge from the High Touch end rather than the High Tech end, although tech is very important, after all what you are offering is a site. A web service.

I think, for MeetUp, the key is to further decentralize. To make localization more possible. Used to be there was this one golden day someone had chosen when people on one topic met all over the country. Now local Organizers can monkey with the meeting dates. That is good. What would further localization look like? It goes from the city to the group. From the group to the individual.

Broadly speaking.

Internet based social networking is a young market. It will likely see many upheavals. There will be pendulum swings from common sense to sophistication and penetration and back.

What can I say, all the best Scott.

Social network - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wait a minute. Guess what I found out this very minute: Scott has been profiled by my former rival Rediff! Now I know why we Chaitime people lost: we never discovered Scott!

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