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Technology & Innovation

The Myriad Future of Social Networks

No single online social network will ever replace Facebook, says Alexis Madrigal. Social networks will build on top of each other and people will belong to several networks at once.

What’s the Latest Development?

Facebook is set to confirm its place in the sun with the biggest IPO since 1999, just before the tech bubble burst. An offering of $10 billion could make the company worth $100 billion, making thousands of new millionaires in the process. But the sun will inevitably set on Zuckerberg & Co., won’t it? Don’t count on it, says Alexis Madrigal. While we typically think of business as a survival of the fittest game, evolution works in other ways that more accurately represents the future of online social networks.

What’s the Big Idea?

What began has Facebook has become Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Quora, Skype, Yelp, Pinterest, and Rdio. Social networks have evolved by diversifying. They have not obeyed a crude food chain where the big fish keeps eating the little fish, or maybe they have, but plenty of little fish have managed to survive, and now many are thriving. There will be no ‘Next Facebook’. Many overlapping social networks will work to fill different social niches, which is how evolution would have it.

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