I’m just gonna mostly stream of thought some observations, expect very rough explanations of even rougher ideas.
Some people more knowledgable than me state that social platforms most frequently fall by evaporative cooling. Once high-quality contributors of a group leave, the average quality of a group’s content goes down. This causes the next-highest-quality contributors to pack up and leave in turn, and so on and so forth, until only those who do not see or care for quality remain. This kills the platform.
And yet, we see some giants remaining solidly in place for many years now. Facebook in particular does exceptionally well. Why? It is not a “plaza”, it doesn’t just connect a bunch of people and call it a day. Instead, if you do something on Facebook, I won’t even know about it. It is a network of “warrens”, small self-contained spaces people opt-in to. I only know what goes on in your part of Facebook if I know you and choose to subscribe to it.
I’d go so far as to say the internet in its entirety can be described as a very loosely connected network of warrens. And this may be precisely the reason why cultural individuality has started to thrive so strongly while general trends have become more subdued, with more and more tiny niches flowering into mature groups with their own very distinct styles. No need to even know those punk people are up to, if all you want is hang with your retro hipster gang.
So, one would conclude, a stable social network is a bunch of small groups that have a hard time discovering/influencing each other. While that may be a viable endgame (though I’ll be the first to admit, bubbling is a problem in its own right), it is no way to grow a network. To allow new groups, new warrens to form and flourish, they need to be discoverable. But not overwhelmingly so, they shouldn’t turn into plazas. And ideally, you’d have some amount of cross-pollination between niches, for healthier social entities.
How do you accomplish that though? It may or may not be a very fine line to walk, but a very important one regardless. I think I have a vague idea of something that might work, but all I wrote is mostly things I learned/realized just today. There’s more reflecting and discussing to do.
If there’s something to get right though, it’s this. Network effects are powerful. Sustained ones even more so.