The next MySpace is already here

What site will be the next MySpace or FaceBook? I think the answer is already here.

To justify my case, we’ll have to take a trip back in time.

In the late 80’s and 90’s being “online” meant getting stuff with your modem. So most people signed up with a service like CompuServe, Prodigy, or AOL. They had email, news, shopping, forums, search, and more. Of course, the internet was there too, and it could do many of the same things, but only a few brave souls outside of academia could conquer the steep learning curve of Unix commands and arcane networking configuration needed to accomplish the most basic tasks. (Remember ‘talk’, ‘pine’, ‘nn’, and ‘gopher’?)

But the internet was free and open, and it got better as the nerds kept creating. They made easy to use email clients that weren’t restricted to people on the same network. They made things with names like “Yahoo!” and “eBay”. They made ugly (but strangely compelling) home pages and fan pages. Publishers could set up shot on the internet without cutting expensive deals. Soon the Web had better features, more content, and fewer restrictions. The proprietary services started to cave: In 1994 Prodigy offered their members access to the web, CompuServe followed in 1995, AOL in 1996.

Fast forward 10 years.

Being “online” today means being generating content and being part of a social network. So most people sign up with a service like MySpace or Facebook or LinkedIn. They have friend lists, photo sharing, messaging, blogs, groups, music and more. Of course, there are independent blogs too, and they can do many of the same things, but only a few brave souls conquer the steep learning curve of setting up a blogging platform or configuring javascript widget code.

But the blogosphere is free and open, and it’s getting better as the nerds keep creating. They’ve created easier to use platforms like WordPress and Typepad, and widget platforms like WidgetBox. They’ve made photo sharing widgets (Flickr), video sharing widgets (Revver, YouTube), Blogroll widgets (Bloglines, Blogrolling), and more keep coming every day. The proprietary services have already been forced to let some widgets in, and the widget nerds are innovating faster than the them. (Including my own company, Lijit.)

I’m not a one prone to making new years predictions, but I predict that MySpace will be as influencial in 2017 as Prodigy is today in 2007. (And probably a lot sooner!)