Monday, May 4, 2009

The Coming End of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook Socialism

The Coming End of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook Socialism
Thank God for Tech Moguls Who Redistribute VC Wealth So We Can Cybersocialize Freely. For Now, That Is.
by Simon Dumenco

Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone should thank God it was just a cardinal, and not the pope.

Last week, according to the Times of London, Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland told the country's Catholics to "Make someone the gift of a prayer through text, Twitter or e-mail every day. Such a sea of prayer is sure to strengthen our sense of solidarity with one another."

Oh, my. That's a nice sentiment, but Twitter really doesn't need more users around the world tweeting in ways that can never be monetized. Ireland's got just 4 million Catholics, but the Vatican counts more than a billion baptized Catholics worldwide. If the pope endorsed tweeting prayer, Twitter could be out of business by the end of the year! The 3-year-old company, remember, still lacks a revenue model and just burns through more venture capital every time a new user signs up. (Fortunately, given how retro-conservative Pope Benedict is, he seems more likely to issue a papal encyclical condemning Twitter. We all know it's more likely to enable sin -- pride! sloth! -- than piety.)

It's telling that Cardinal Brady grouped Twitter with texting and e-mail. The former, of course, is a paid service and a massive profit center for cellular carriers around the world, and the latter you also pay for, albeit indirectly, as a service bundled with your monthly internet access or by allowing yourself to be subjected to advertising. (As a Gmail user, I decided to see what would come up when I e-mailed myself the Lord's Prayer. The ads Google served included ones for BeliefNet and Don Helin's paperback pulp thriller "Thy Kingdom Come." Ka-ching!) But when it comes to Twitter, we not only don't pay, but we all take it for granted that somebody's going to keep footing the bill for the rapidly expanding server farms needed to process and store zillions of tweets per minute.

It's sweet, really, that venture capitalists have ponied up millions so that we can all keep tweeting. It's also more than a bit scary. Because more and more of us are increasingly addicted not only to Twitter, but to other services that lack workable business models. What happens if the "dealers" who feed our habits disappear? (It's been known to happen. Last week, for instance, Yahoo announced it was shutting down last century's hot social-networking-esque service, GeoCities, for which it paid $3.5 billion in 1999.)

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