How attention ate the social graph

Remember when Facebook was building the “social graph”? The idea was that it was capturing this amazing look into who was connected to whom, and that this was at the center of the company’s value. It was the idea behind short-lived products like “graph search”. Of course, connections are still supposedly at the center of Facebook’s business model. But ultimately it’s attention that the company monetizes; the social graph is secondary.

LinkedIn is a little different, but arguably something similar happened there, too. The company was building this amazing professional graph — a mapping of whole professions and  industries, a new way of examining how our economy functions. That data is still at the heart of LinkedIn’s model, but they too seem drawn to attention.

Just having this data didn’t seem valuable enough; you have to keep people attached to your application to make it useful.

This is just sort of sad. We mapped everyone’s social relationships and it turned out that in order to justify a colossal market cap it was more beneficial to just become an entertainment company. We mapped out our economy and so far it’s mostly good for recruiting (which, granted, relies on that graph) and maybe some sort of business-oriented newsfeed. We created these amazing social graphs, but what have we used them for?


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