by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
bill gates, growth, social networks

facebook, myspace

Bill Gates Joins The Growing Social Network Exodus

from the nothing-lasts-forever dept

Extrapolation of what's happening "now" is one of the most dangerous things in trying to predict the future. If something is growing quickly today, it doesn't mean that will last. Take social networks for example. Historically, they have a pretty standard pattern. There's a huge rush of growth, as people think it's new and neat, and they sign up all their friends. Then there's a flat period where people are still using it, but some begin to question why. Then people start to realize that, beyond reconnecting with some old friends and acquaintances, there really isn't that much to do there -- and that realization may come even sooner if they're getting bombarded with advertisements. It happened way back in the '90s with Six Degrees. It happened with Friendster in the first half of the decade. Yet, some people and companies believed that MySpace and Facebook would be different. Certainly, both companies recognized this problem to some extent, and have worked to add more things that you can "do" on their sites. Both still get a ton of traffic and usage and aren't going anywhere soon. However, there are some worrying signs. Google recently noted that the ads it's put on MySpace don't perform very well (which is something of a problem, since Google has guaranteed at least $900 million in ad revenue to MySpace). And, now, reports are coming out that users are, on average, spending noticeably less time on both MySpace and Facebook, with some leaving it behind. And, what better way to amusingly drive that point home, than to point out that even Bill Gates has killed his Facebook page just a few months after Microsoft dumped $240 million into the company?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Buzz, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 8:43pm

    very true

    I can really relate to this. I don't visit my Facebook account nearly as much as I used to. I don't want to get rid of it because I have connections to many old friends (many from high school). Unlike others, I don't everyone that adds me. I use it to stay in contact with people I know (or knew) in person. I don't meet tons of new people. For one thing, I'm married, so I really have no interest in flirting with girls. As for guys, I don't find "meeting new people" online very engaging or worthwhile.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 9:25pm

    I deleted all my social memberships to myspace and the like a few months ago - to much time spent doing very little actual social networking, to many ads and spammers and also the fact that I'd rather socialize using messengers, email and phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Neurothustra, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 10:16pm

    It's not the "where" but the "what"

    People may get tired of social networking sites, but no one is going back to static webpages. The point isn't about which is the social network du jour, it's the ability to offer users a way to personalize websites and modularize them to their needs, as well as making inter-saite communication with not just friends, but people with similar tastes and interests. Social network sites iwth no focus other than just sharing pictures and blogs will be assimilated into sites with an actual demographic. For example, video game sites already incorporate social networking aspects in order to create a community of people that share a passion for something, and provide a means in which people can share those experiences (and that is the *true* power of social networking).

    Also, your bit on Gates' leaving Facebook is a bit misleading, suggesting that he is leaving the site because he lost faith in the idea of social networking when, in fact, it was because it was bringing too much attention on him (it's his business whether or not he wants to be popular); it had nothing to do with his opinion of the strength of social networks. bad form.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 10:32pm

    Gates leaving Facebook != End of Social Networking

    Just because someone deletes their page on a networking site doesn't mean social networking is completely stopping. I mean, stop and think about it. Bill Gates is relatively well known to put it mildly. Almost anyone who even uses a computer knows he started Microsoft and made billions.

    Its more likely to me it was just a hassle. Its why most people stop using MySpace. Trying to network is a pain in the ass when you have spammers sending out invites on day old accounts. I say spammers, cause as sure as I am women dig me I'm pretty sure there are not 73 hot babes moving into my area that need a "friend with benefits," though they use a different phrase for it.

    Facebook is a little different than MySpace, but I imagine it was just annoying. No point keeping something like that if you don't keep it updated constantly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2008 @ 11:21pm

    Maybe he did not want his purchase tracked

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    DREi, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 7:00am

    Re: It's not the "where" but the "what"

    And how do you know this as a fact?

    "Also, your bit on Gates' leaving Facebook is a bit misleading, suggesting that he is leaving the site because he lost faith in the idea of social networking when, in fact, it was because it was bringing too much attention on him"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Gary, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 7:56am

    get off your butt

    I looked at using these sights once when they first came out. People wanted to add me to there friends info and more and more. I flat out decided I wanted no part of it. I did not want all my info out there for nuts, scammers, and thefts to find. Or is it I am old fashion I like to do my social networking face to face. You know live in the real world. I love to engage people directly, Hey stop sitting on your fat ass and get out of the house.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Eyal Hertzog, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:05am

    It's the lists, stupid

    The heavy users and the power users are getting tired. those who drove the success of facebook are finding themselves with 500 contacts and a non-interesting news-feed simply because it's 90% about people they don't really care about.

    yes, there are people that i wish to be notified when they add photos/links/posts etc. but there are definitely much less than 500 people like that (I would say ~20-40)

    Facebook's late-coming lists feature will address exactly that. the big question mark is how easy and accessible it would be.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Ken Hanscom, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:18am

    It's a fad

    Just like anything else, like those parachute pants in the 80's -- this too will come to pass. Yes, social networking will remain important -- but to the $15B that Mark @ Facebook thinks it currently is. No way.

    It's great to have a centralized place to keep track of your friends, but is it where we are going to spend our next 5 years, no way.

    The next MySpace, the next Facebook is already out there -- just a matter of time until we all know it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Tin Ear, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:36am

    I used to have a MySpace account...

    I think I still may, unless they deleted it for non-activity. I made sure to make it as nondescript as possible. I put the very least amount of info in my Personal Info spots, and put pictures of the back of my head, and me at the BBQ (facing away from the camera). I had all my RL friends and family on my contact lists.
    I still got messages from people saying,"I think you are cute!! Please ad me to your Friends List! With pictures like that, how can they tell how 'cute' I am? They were just fishing for friends and I didn't want to add them just for that. It didn't take me long to realize that it would do nothing for my social life under those circumstances.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Overcast, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:49am

    I don't know.. it seems a lot of times, when the sites get to 'corporate' many begin to loose interest. It may be for just that reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Lisa Creech Bledsoe, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Social networking, not shopping

    Seems to me that ads don't do as well on social network sites because shopping is not what people are there to do. Meanwhile, social networks can be used to help businesses create awareness for a message, hear new ideas quickly, get feedback from interest groups, and connect people and services ("Hey, So-and-so needs a good coder; I will recommend my friend.")

    I would guess Bill Gates might benefit from people in his company who keep an ear to the ground and stay in the online conversation in THEIR social networks, which frees him up to do other stuff. Our CEO is the same -- we keep him updated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Todd, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 1:32pm

    SN's with a purpose

    I think the retreat is imminent in some ways. SN's will be always be around, it's just not the new "light bulb" anymore. It's been adopted into a lexicon for communicating with people. I run one (, but it's dedicated to bands finding drummers and vise versa. That's it. Niche' and specialized and we do it in a free, dating-website style. The popular acceptance of SN's as a way to find like minded people has made our job easier in getting people to accept our idea as viable. I see a move from macro to micro...possibly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Joey Fingers, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    Oh Please... Gates is not in the demographic that social networking appeals to (with the exception maybe something like LinkedIn or SuicideGirls(ha!)). The fact the dumped his Facebook page, after creating it just to test it out prior to their investment, is not an indication of anything.

    They have not figured out how to effectively monetize these networks? They will. A life without MySpace, Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn, Bebo, etc... don't hold your breath.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Will The Writers Strike Blend?, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 7:17pm

    Tom Dickson

    They have not figured out how to effectively monetize these networks? They will. A life without MySpace, Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn, Bebo, etc... don't hold your breath.

    Your right, and using that same logic, seven years ago there existed only a tiny section in the video store that rented DVDs

    Other interesting facts:
    48% of people who watch series-based television watch it online, and don’t watch it on the television.

    My favorite: 42% of 18-29 year olds will use the internet as a primary news source when they vote in the 2008 election, and they will vote...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    John, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 8:33pm

    Social Networking Sucks!

    The term "Social Networking" itself is a lame, overused, buzz-word. Sadly the term implies much more than any of the aforementioned sites have ever offered. Both are nothing more than advertisement meccas and self-absorbed blogs. I have several friends that use both sites and most login once a week or so, but the reality is the sites are boring, usually mind numbing to navigate, and offer nothing more than the usefulness of a giant bulletin board. I haven't and won't ever use "Social Networking" sites because I have a real social life, with real friends, and a real job. Like most career oriented adults I don't have time to post photos, my every action/thought/desire, or lame information for the world to see. The whole "re-connecting" thing is great, but there are a million sites and other ways to achieve that, and "Social Networking" is not one of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    taylorparsons, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:03pm

    reports that social networking traffic is down

    Here's my theory on the network being down on FB in Dec 07. I think it was down because it is used by working professional while they are at work. I use it, and so do 28 thousand other people at Microsoft. My theory is because of the Christmas and New Years holidays, people were not connected and because they were with their families. I also advertise on FB, and the trafic reports during Dec were way down, but come January when people got back to work, the traffic was up and higher then before the xmas holidays.

    the data:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:05pm

    Social networking? Lame.

    IM? Lame.

    For technophiles, we still used old school technologies called "email" and "irc". They are quite effective, thank you very much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Iron Chef, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:18pm

    Re: reports that social networking traffic is down

    Well, I suppose it all comes back to that premise that people have limited amount of time available.

    First off, how can you not include LinkedIN in that mix?

    When you dig into usage patterns on LinkedIn, you'll see a huge fluxuation of usage on a day-to-day basis, usually topping out on Wednesdays, which makes sense... It's been a week since I looked at the graphs, but I seem to remember a substantial traffic increase of (30+% ??) which was interesting..

    Additionally, it seems that LinkedIn is the largest opportunity in the social website arena, as their usage is very low. But I still have privacy concerns after I dropped off of LinkedIn last year... Going from one or two pings a week to having 80 people pull up my profile a day for two weeks straight was concerning. There are a lot of privacy issues that should be addressed in the whole Social Networking arena.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:41pm

    you wanna be my friend? who wants to be my fuckin' friend?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    His Shadow, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 10:59pm

    Who Cares?

    This is the guy who is routinely lauded as the master genius of the computer age, and he didn't even see the relevance of the internet. What Bill Gates does doesn't matter a damn, and hasn't mattered for quite a while.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Some Guy, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 12:37am

    What made these sites good, and why they fail

    Social Networking sites were good because they did, well, social networking. A lot of sites forget that now. Here's my experience with a few of them.

    Xanga: Back in the day I was on Xanga (I can't really speak for what it is today). THE GOOD: You got *your* own web page, it was easy to set up, it had a blog. Probably the best feature was the "about you" section, but that was severely limited. THE BAD: Like all blogging sites, the over-proliferation of blogs lead to very few people reading each one. Social-networking features were few, so after you realize that no one reads your blog there's not much reason to stay.

    MySpace: I was never on MySpace, but I've seen enough I think. THE GOOD: A lot of bands were on MySpace. THE BAD: Just about everything else. No privacy. Spamming. Poor web design. Annoying auto-playing music.

    Facebook: The best iteration of social networking I've seen yet, but still with problems. THE GOOD: A nice profile page, easy to set up, some privacy. Good social networking features like photo-tagging your friends, groups, the wall (comments on your profile), words linked to show people with common interests. THE BAD: Privacy getting worse. But mainly: social networking has taken a back seat to "applications." Applications spam you with notifications to get you to add them. The newsfeed is filled with the applications people added instead of things they did. Profiles are impossible to navigate because people added 100 applications to their profile. The message Facebook is sending now is that playing Scrabble on Facebook is more important than finding your friends' interests and communicating with them.

    I imagine that another site will come along with better social-networking features and the people tired of wading through all the junk on Facebook will move to the next big thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    John S, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 5:09am

    Short term interest

    People today lose interest very quickly. Here today and gone tomorrow.
    It seems more people are follower's these days. They just follow the trends and never really are satisfied with the offerings. These social sites try too hard to be all things to all user's. They often fail when going this route and it would be better for them to just remain on the original path. Eventually like AOL they will be replaced by another popular ideal. Cell phone texting is going this direction too. It's very popular now but it will eventually make people isolated because they will not have as much actual face to face contact. I find we have fallen in love with the technology and not necessarily the ideal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Lukman Febrianto, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 5:25am

    Everything is Changing...

    I think this is just another example of:
    " Everything is changing, exept the change itself...". Just as those companies (especially the computer or technology related products' company) that tend to merge with others to increase their power in the more competitive world.

    The big question is not about the existance of social networking websites, but about how websites always creatively and innovatively change to provide services that suit the people's dynamic needs.

    More example, can we notice the difference between computer (PC, notebook, tablet-PC, etc.) that has communication capabilities with smartphone that has powerful computing capabilities (wordprocessing, spreadsheet, media player, etc.).

    For me, the boundary is not so clear anymore, which one is social networking, e-mail, chat or news websites, when everyone try to provide everything... One Stop Shopping they said...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Tigasuku, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 6:11am

    Re: It's not the "where" but the "what"

    I have to agree with Neurothustra. Social networking is not an end in itself. It's the means to an end. SN is pretty much like the club scene. You go to establish a presence and because it's the thing to do but you eventually grow out of it and realize how little it has to offer. However, I do believe that while people may abandon mere SN sites they will always carry with them the desire to use similar tools as a compliment to their other group activities. As long as there is a common thread linking people they will want to network with others who share their interests. In fact, I have social networking tools (Community Builder) integrated into my site and it's purely business related.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Dennis Cahill, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 8:10am


    Go to and play any sport any time,place at one click of a button.What are you doing today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    relationary, Feb 10th, 2008 @ 3:56pm

    Goal vs. Social websites

    Social or "organizational" websites could never be an end in themselves. Ultimately websites that are compatible with your goals will always prevail and the social network that revolves around that goal will perform a supporting role.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Ross Denver, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:22am


    Facebook or Facebored???
    I opt for the latter

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Lou, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:26am

    what's important to note

    is that in the link that details Bill Gates' evacuation from Facebook, it states that he did so because of the overwhelming response his profile had. Does that not, in itself, nullify the argument of this article? It would make more sense if Gates had shut his profile down due to a lack of interest, or an annoyance with the service. Instead he did so because of the immense amount of interest it got.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 5:06am

    Not enough Johns

    Attention Whoring, I mean "Social Networking", sites don't work when everyone is a whore. Think about it. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    annamotopoeia, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    Does anyone ever, ever click on the ads on thoe websites?? I never have, never will. Especially since most are for skuzzy dating sites. Or scam surveys.

    All useless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Rob, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 8:19am


    After all the hype about Social Networks, particularly over the past few months, a backlash is unsurprising - to say the least.

    There'll be people who can monetise them effectively, and those who can't. Their usefulness for targeting particular segments is undoubted, and their contribution to overall online marketing effort is unquestionable - anyone know a better way of understanding a potential contact prior to contacting them?

    I don't think the fact that Bill's killed his profile is any indication of any type of downwards trend in Social Networking - it probably just got completely unmanageable, and he has no time to update it anyway.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Stanford Wharton, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    I think Im near done with my facebook account too. Afterall, Im married and cant party 5x/week, take that out of the equation and Facebook starts to be a skimpy friend-finder service, maybe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Vitallywell, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Web 2.0

    I never really understood the fascination with Web 2.0 / Social Media websites. Doesn't anyone have a life? Does everyone have tons of time on their hands? Go out of your house and make friends, get a job or go to school or get a hobby.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    JP, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Web 2.0

    Some of us are stuck in the house - in my case as a sole parent with a severely disabled child. It's not that easy to go out and make friends, have a job, go to school or get a hobby. Think outside your own little world sometimes people!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Been There Done That - Yawn, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:18am


    Hold on there. I am one of those old school geeks and i'll tell you this. Why would i ever wanna go back to irc when the new technologies are so much superior and work so well. Plus i'm usually doing several things on my pc at once so if i'm networking with someone they are skyping me or yahooing me voice. I don't have the hands free to type talk.
    Sounds like you need to grow up and leave the pot smoking friends behind

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Zachary Alvernaz, Feb 23rd, 2008 @ 9:42pm

    Ad revenue down!?

    I find it kind of surprising that Google has yet to be able to counter Firefox and its extensions NoScript and Adblock Plus. I use these extensions and have not seen an ad in over six months since installing them. No wonder the ads are not doing so well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Billy, Jan 2nd, 2009 @ 10:38am

    poop butt

    now we are talking!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    SocialNetworks Getting the Job Done, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 5:59pm

    Social Networks Need to Get Serve a Greater Purpose

    OK, Microsoft has no Social Networking products so of course Bill Gates will create media hype around why people don't need Social Networking tools to get people to not see the value and not purchse other products.

    Social Networking tools for business have multiple applications for getting real work done. Social Networking tools need to be integrated with business applications to help you with the task you are working on. For Example: I need to find out more information about the new employee benefits at my company. Who do I go to? Who is an expert? Who do they know as well who can help me. Enough with Social Networking tools for socialization outside of work!

    Let's use these tools to help us get answers to questions, to find information which will help me get my job done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.