The Next Generation of Social Apps: Learning from the Past and Looking to the Future


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 04, 2023

4 min read


The Next Generation of Social Apps: Learning from the Past and Looking to the Future

The rapid growth of technology has always presented unique opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators. Just look at the rise of the internet, which was growing exponentially at a staggering rate of 2,300% per year. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, famously coined the "Hockey Stick Rule" to describe this phenomenon. He believed that if a technology is growing exponentially, it's important not to blow the opportunity.

Today, we can draw parallels between the growth of the internet and the current landscape of social apps. Web 2.0, the social network revolution that took place 15 years ago, holds valuable lessons for today's social apps. One key insight is that too many connections can be overwhelming for users. Maintaining relationships with thousands of high school friends, colleagues, and acquaintances becomes a chore. This is where small chat groups and algorithm-driven feeds come into play, simplifying the process of managing connections and showing users only the best content.

The past generation of social apps succeeded by building large networks with feeds for discovery. They created a followers/status competition for engagement, bringing together creators and audiences. The monetization model primarily relied on ads, supporting various media formats such as photos, text, and videos. However, the next generation of social apps is taking a different approach.

The new wave of social apps is a reactionary movement, focusing on creating genuine connections between people. These apps are either small networks or algorithm-driven platforms that prioritize quality over quantity. They empower creators to own their audiences, allowing for direct monetization through subscriptions, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and other innovative business models. The evolution of media formats is also a key aspect of this movement, with an emphasis on interactivity and user engagement.

Creators, in particular, are seeking more control and independence, leading to the rise of the Creator Economy. Many creators are looking for alternatives to pre-existing platforms that often act as intermediaries between them and their audience. The emergence of NFTs, subscriptions, e-commerce, and other revenue streams has provided creators with new opportunities to monetize their content and engage with their fans directly.

However, it's important to note that the success of these new social apps will heavily rely on the "back office" infrastructure. Platforms that offer seamless tools for creators to manage their content, audience, and monetization strategies will be at a significant advantage. The ability to author 3D content easily and integrate it into games, interactive experiences, or NFTs will also play a crucial role in shaping the future of social apps.

Looking back at the Web 2.0 era, one important lesson we learned was the importance of user engagement. Simply building an app was not enough; it was necessary to grow a critical mass of users and foster high engagement. Low engagement would lead to even lower engagement, creating a vicious cycle. Therefore, it's still crucial for new social apps to focus on building a strong community and achieving saturation before expanding into adjacent networks.

Viral loops, a concept that was relevant in the Web 2.0 era, still hold true today. By constructing, measuring, and optimizing viral loops, social apps can effectively attract and retain users. The resurgence we are witnessing today is comparable in scope to the Web 2.0 revolution, but with a much larger market, thanks to the supercomputers we carry in our pockets.

In conclusion, the next generation of social apps has the opportunity to learn from the past, embrace new technologies, and cater to the evolving needs of creators and users. To thrive in this landscape, social apps should prioritize creating genuine connections, empowering creators, and offering seamless back-office tools. Here are three actionable pieces of advice for social app developers:

  • 1. Prioritize quality over quantity: Instead of aiming for massive user bases, focus on building a strong community with high engagement. This will create a solid foundation for growth and expansion.
  • 2. Embrace new media formats and interactivity: Experiment with emerging technologies such as 3D content, interactive experiences, and NFTs. These new forms of media may initially seem like toys, but they have the potential to capture users' attention in a big way.
  • 3. Provide comprehensive back-office support: Develop robust tools that empower creators to manage their content, audience, and monetization strategies effectively. By offering a seamless and user-friendly experience, social apps can attract and retain top creators.

By combining the lessons of the past with a forward-thinking approach, the next generation of social apps can redefine the way we connect, engage, and share in the digital world.

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