Mark Cuban was skeptical about Google’s purchase of YouTube, but now raises some other interesting questions about whether the YouTube concept can even stand up under its own weight, considering how little of the content is user-created.
He also makes an important point about social networks like MySpace and FaceBook:
Social networks are not new. Go back 20 years to CompuServe and UseNet groups and even chat rooms. They all cycled through the same way. They were fun and exciting when you found people with like interests. People found the forum, group or room usually via referral. People involved learned, were educated, were entertained, whatever the forum offered. Then if the forum grew, as in any group, some participants became more popular than others, and others tried, but failed to become popular. They tried to dominate conversations, and when they couldn’t they tried different ways to game or sabotage the system. That pushed out the “purists” and original posters. Then the spammers came. When the forum reaches the point where no one has a strong connection, the spammers and people trying to game the forum take over till the forum dies. It’s what has become “The Ecology of Forums.” When a forum is open to everyone, eventually everyone shows up and the original attraction of the forum is lost.
When I bought my first PC in January, 1986, when most everything online was text-only, I used CompuServe for internet access and discovered some of their forums, such as the Broadcast Professionals Forum and the Consumer Electronics Forum. I quickly became a regular visitor and occasional contributor, and met some really smart and clever people there (one of those was Mark Evanier, whose tremendously popular website is still a must-visit everyday — Mark was the one who tipped me in April, 1993, to the industry secret that an unknown named Conan O’Brien had been chosen by NBC to replace David Letterman as the host of “Late Night”).
Unfortunately, as Cuban says, the forums’ importance and relevance dwindled as the membership became tainted by bitter people desperate for more attention or those with an ax to grind. Like many others, I visited them less and less often, and eventually gave up on them completely, opting to maintain contact with some of the better contributors privately, rather than stick our necks out on that public guillotine.