Finding “Value” in Online Social Networking

So according to an article in Salon, the social networking site “43 Things” is actually receiving funding from Amazon.

(I actually came across this site a few months ago and thought, “Hmmm. . .I should come back and check this out later.” Then I never did. Somehow it got lost in the digital circular file that my mind is becoming–still looking for ways to control the chaos. . .But that’s another story.)

Anyhow, it is somehow disheartening to me to find out that a corporate giant like Amazon is behind this simple, harmless social networking site. It reminds me that all of these wonderful online communities that we are building together might make a welcome feast for a corporate giant looking for new advertising/revenue channels.

On a related note, Bloglines has been acquired by AskJeeves, and Ross Mayfield blogged today about a Bloglines presentation he saw recently post-merger. Among other things, the presentation mentioned the role that advertisers might play in this newly forged relationship. Another reminder that the human networks created by social software might actually have some monetary value.

All of this reminds me of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition (see, that’s where Amazon belongs. . .), which explores the charged relationship between the amazing experiences and communities that we are creating and discovering online and their potential commercial value (that’s actually a vast over-simplification of all the issues that this book explores, but it’ll have to do).

Call me naive, but on some level it was nice to think that all of the sites out there that foster social networking and human connections were being provided out of the goodness of someone’s heart. I guess, it’s only a matter of time before Madison Ave. discovers the “real” value that can be mined out of these networks. . .