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Dr. Petroski
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Law of Accelerating Returns

on Thu May 24, 2018 8:58 pm
Author and futurist Ray Kurzweil has suggested that one way in which technology innovation is often misunderstood has to do with the linear manner at which we assume the world to operate. In this, Kurzweil suggests that many individuals tend to overestimate the immediate and short-term influences of a technology (leading to disappointment and rejection of many innovations) and they also tend to underestimate the lasting and longterm influence (leading to rejection of older technologies that are in fact still quite relevant).

We might apply Kurzweil’s law to understand the evolution of Facebook and de-evolution of MySpace. Today, Facebook and its one billion users have more or less supplanted MySpace and its shrinking user base as the “go to” social media platform, which tends to lead many to discuss how Facebook “won” and MySpace “lost” the social media battle. However, re-examining the evolution of both programs reveals a logic completely in line with Kurzweil’s thinking. Launched in 2003, MySpace is considered by many to be one of the first large-scale, open-access social media platforms in the world and enjoyed early success as a novel approach to the Internet—for the first time, Web users could own (for free) a personal and persistent presence on the Internet without having to learn any computer programming language. From their 2003 launch, the platform swelled to over 100 million unique visitors in 2006 before declining in the face of a new platform: Facebook. Indeed, the potential “death knell” for MySpace came when the Facebook platform expanded from a college-only audience to consider anyone over the age of 13 (the same audience as MySpace). As Facebook eventually swelled to its one billion user accounts, the MySpace platform continued to shrink down to only a few million active users.

So, was MySpace a failure, and did Facebook “kill” it? Kurzweil might argue that if not for the invention and widespread adoption of MySpace as the first mainstream social media platform, there would have never been a Facebook. After all, prior to MySpace, the notion of having a personal profile on a persistent network space was more or less a foreign idea, reserved largely for a small segment of computer-savvy individuals building Angelfire pages (a web hosting service in the 1990s) or posting comments in bulletin boards. In other words, it took a MySpace to introduce consumers to the notion of social networks, and only then was another company (Facebook) able to improve on the original technology to make it more desirable to users.

What do you think? Are there any examples of communication technology that seem to fit the same pattern as the MySpace-Facebook relationship? Are there any specific technologies you see gradually fading from popular use?

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Dr. Petroski
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Southern Connecticut State University
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Re: Law of Accelerating Returns

on Fri May 25, 2018 9:43 pm
This has been an on going debate that I've had with myself for a while; why did we as a society get tired and rid of myspace and jump on board with Facebook? To begin, I was in high school when Myspace became a hit with people, I remember it was a new concept that had just come out and to have the ability to free of charge have your own page online was exciting. Myspace had everything one could think of: the capacity of posting photos, making new friends, listening to music and so on. Then Facebook came out, and it completely took the world by storm and left myspace in the shadows, but what exactly did Facebook have that myspace didn't? This is the thing that puzzles me, because Facebook was much simpler and didn't allow you to personalize your page like myspace did. To me personally, it was when we as a society began to develop this short term attention span, where as people we got tired of the same thing day in and out and got excited for something new. Which we see clearly to this day as well, another example is how now Facebook is becoming bit irrelevant and now Instagram is the new thing. Instagram has always been a social media that the younger generation was really involved in, however over the past couple of years the popularity has grown even more. At this moment, I do see the fading out popularity of Snapchat and Pinterest; snapchat lost many followers because of updates to the software that many didn't agree with, and Pinterest has become more of a DIY person's haven and not everyone loves to DIY. Regardless, if it had not been for myspace we probably would have never even ended up with social media, because it was such groundbreaking invention it marked the way that we as people communicate.
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Re: Law of Accelerating Returns

on Thu May 31, 2018 12:44 pm
I agree, this is a debate we can go on about for a long time. I believe we do see the shrinking popularity of facebook and my generation has shifted towards instagram as our main social media platform. When thinking about facebook, my generation has always thought it to be something our parents used, yes we all probably had one at a point, but it was uncool because of our parents. So I don't know if it is another social media network necessarily killing another or if its more of a generational tendency or preference. I see nothing wrong with facebook, and I use it to update my family on my life occasionally, but none of my friends actively use it, so I go where my generation tends to be which is instagram, while my mom stays on facebook where her generation is.
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Re: Law of Accelerating Returns

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