Don't build a Social Network

This seems to be the programmers dream. It is not surprising when you consider the popularity of Facebook and Twitter. Now, in 2021, we have passed the point of "critical mass" and there is little point in trying.

I came across a posting on Allen Pike's site: "How to not build a social network".

Allen Pike's post:

His quote from the Inc article he mentions:

Focus on the core values of your social media platform and build it the best you can. 
Success is inevitable if you plan everything the right way.

Answered by Allen:

I regret to inform you that success is extremely not inevitable, no matter how much you plan in advance. If you start building a social media app with any sort of “my vision’s strength will inherently lead me to success” mindset, your aspiring startup is going to get impaled on a sharp and very expensive spike.

Over the last ten years I’ve worked on almost a dozen social networking apps. I’ve worked on chat apps, sharing apps, and dating apps. I’ve seen product-market misfits, product launch faceplants, and strong teams that flirted with traction but just couldn’t get the numbers required to find a path to profitability.

Given this experience, I’d like to share a guide of my own. A resource for future generations of social media hopefuls, informed by my years of walking this path. What is the best way to build a social network?

I particularly like Allen's reference to "my visions strength .... lead to success" comment. I think it is up there with the "the only limit to what you can achieve is your imagination". Something that I used to see about all sorts of new software platforms and tools.

Allen goes on to say that the engagment of customers (users), in his example 10. is difficult to do. Tell me about it! I have control over a Wordpress site that could be easily used by a community in a rural village in the UK. A lot of those are Facebook users and have no desire to look elsewhere.

One awesome thing about designing and developing tools – that is, apps that solve a particular problem – is that you can usefully test most tools using a pretty small number of users. If you can find 10 engaged customers that are a reasonable representation of the target market for your tool, you can often learn a lot about how you should be improving your thing, or determine if you need a change of plans entirely.

As a rule, social software doesn’t work that way. If you cloned Facebook at full detail and fidelity – which would be a staggering amount of work at this point – plus made it meaningfully better in a way that you think users would significantly prefer over Facebook, you couldn’t just onboard 10 representative people and determine if your thing was good. Your possibly-awesome codebase with no users would just be a bizarrely complicated ghost town.

A codebase with no users - most of the traffic to my Wordpress site is from China, not the village!


External Sources

Don't build a Social Network - Janury 2021