It's the social media equivalent of a snooty country club. For the rich and well-connected who don't want to rub elbows with those who aren't, exclusive social networks pledge to keep out the riff-raff. BusinessWeek article looks at one of the latest private social networks, aSW or a Small World .
Membership in these networks is heavily restricted. Rather than common Web 2.0 strategy around "the bigger the better," this is all about "quality membership." The BW article states that aSW "confines membership to the relatively small group of people who travel in the same elite, often moneyed, social circles. The goal is to filter out the marginal users and build, " "a private place where people could be much more forthcoming with information."
People have been complaining about the lack of openness in social media sites like Facebook for a long time. As Scott Gilbertson, pointed out in a recent Wired article the Facebook experience is built around the circle of "friends" and relationships data. Unlike a public blog or open site, everything is closed to the outside world.
"When entering data into Facebook, you’re sending it on a one-way trip. Want to show somebody a video or a picture you posted to your profile? Unless they also have an account, they can’t see it. Your pictures, videos and everything else is stranded in a walled garden, cut off from the rest of the web."
(see ZD Net article for more on this) But private social media sites take it to another level.
With the exclusive listing of presumably big shots, members can
discuss issues more openly, promote amazing parties and sell high
ticket items like jewelry and jaguars--that's the theory anyhow. Some
members already claim the sites are being diluted with Donald Trump
wannabes--maybe they drifted over from Facebook.
That could be one reason these sites are growing. IN the three-and-a-half years since its launch, aSW's membership has grown from 500 users to about 260,000. Not exactly MySpace numbers, but not bad either. Meantime critics say it smacks of elitism, much like a gated community.
In any case, it's worth watching on several fronts. While the BW examples smack of elitism, thes private platforms could end up being useful for organizations, clubs and other groups of people who need or seek privacy. This might range from social organizations to, yes, country clubs and business groups. I could even see neighborhood activist groups forming around closed social networks ("hey, did you hear who's house got robbed last night?"). Let's just hope the fad doesn't get too popular. Who wants a Web consisting of thousands of walled islands?