Big Social Media Could Be Ambitious, Too

Fun to see a piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek that's critical of the lack of ambition shown by Facebook and the other poster children of the Web who are throwing all sorts of talent and energy at "precision advertising" (term from the article).

Ambition shouldn't be left to the hard sciences.

And I don't think it will be. Facebook may have already committed to the wrong era, but other social media players needn't.

Foursquare screen shotI used FourSquare every day on a recent vacation in Chicago, a city I have a few friends in but haven't visited much and don't know well. The new version of FourSquare is pretty powerful, and had a significant impact of what my brothers and I did a couple evenings there.

It was more than what you could get from Yelp (recommendations) or Google Maps (location). It was both those things, plus a real time feel, plus the breaking down of information by time and categories, in a pretty intuitive interface.

Now, FourSquare could yet fuck all this up by polluting the content with something other than content that is real and unfiltered (maybe it already is "bought" at some level and I just don't see that yet). But it's exciting, pushes the bar higher, eliminates the need for any advertising whatsoever, and potentially could be one early iteration of an ad-free commercial web.

Will they avoid the classic social media service bait and switch (users: you bring us the content and activity patterns; then we sell you out!)? Can they afford to?

Someone with real ambition - the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the next generation - will tackle this and either (a) figure out a way to profit from it, or (b) build it anyway because it's humanizing and figure the business part out later.

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