Social Networking Perception Versus Reality

One of the things that amazes me about web design culture (if there is such a thing and it is cohesive enough to call it a “culture”) is how out of touch our perception(s) can be versus reality. In truth, we as an industry can have a pretty limited view of the medium we work within.

For example, which social networking sites are growing and attracting visitors right now. I’ve never even heard of IMEEM, I never would have guessed AIM Pages is growing faster than Digg, I can’t believe GeoCities still has more traffic than Flickr, etc. 

Add in to the mix that this is just U.S. users and it gets even more bizarre since Google’s Orkut had 24.6 million visitors in September, but only ~500,000 of those were in the U.S. When was the last time you had a conversation about Orkut? Never? Yeah, me too.

I can almost guarantee you that most web designers turn their noses up at these sites because we think they’re not particularly well-designed (at least aesthetically) and yet, that’s where all the people are. The beauty-lover in me desperately wants to believe that MySpace is an anomaly of mass scale and yet, most of the other sites that are growing have just as many flaws and are just as ugly. You know what that means, right? We’re putting a ton of resources into visuals on sites that no one is using.

I don’t know how to create an organic, growing community. The task seems at odds with itself from the starting line. But as an industry, I think we need to start figuring it out more and not relying on the purely visual side of our skillset to get us through.


All that said, the metrics for TechCrunch’s article are probably a bit silly. It’s only U.S. data, and honestly, a year timeline? On the internet? Things move far too quickly to think that’s an actual representation of reality in the same way it would be for a traditional business. I’d rather see the last 6 months. IMEEM probably shows up on the radar because it’s so new (e.g. it didn’t have much traffic initially.)