Less Can Be More with Online Networks

January 27, 2011

Sam Lessin (founder of drop.io, now with Facebook) described traditional social media sites as "uploading something and then pushing it across a network or making it searchable." With drop.io, Lessin created a service that did the opposite; instead of making things public, individuals and businesses used drop.io to publish information online, secure it in a private place, and share that “exact location with exactly who [they] wanted."

The idea of private networks is fascinating, in part because it runs counter to how most people that I know use social sites like Facebook and Twitter. The usual behavior is to accumulate as many friends as possible, safe in the knowledge that we can un-friend people later. But as we increase the number of online relationships that we have, the intimacy of what we share and the connection that we have with our networks decline. MySpace lost its credibility because users hyperactively expanded their reach to the point that an overload of porn and spam devalued real online connections.

Instead of half-sharing with lots of people, I would rather share lots of things with the handful of people that mean the most to me. At least a few startups (including Path) are exploring this concept, but I’d love to see companies apply this theory to other spaces that would benefit from fewer, higher-quality interactions (e-commerce and online dating come to mind).