I’ve been thinking about what kinds of online services are the most successful and why. It seems to me that the great ones are those that tap into our society’s oldest goal of sharing. News is a good example of this.
News originated as word of mouth. Then evolved into a central source such as a town crier. Then to a distribution method via paper, to radio which allowed even easier distribution and less barrier to entry (not having to know how to read). TV merged radio’s low barrier to entry with newspapers embedded pictures to bring you sound with moving pictures. The internet has allowed us to “get back to basics” by absorbing our news again by word of mouth. News headlines are streamed via individuals on their Twitter feed. I found out about Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac’s death as well as the recent LA earthquake via Twitter. If those “headlines” interest me, I can dig deeper via a trustworthy news source. But the first touch came from a peer.
Sharing personal information and gossip is also an old pastime. Before the written word, we began with oral peer to peer sharing but only with those in our immediate proximity. The postal service allowed us to more frequently keep up with those we cared about over long distances to be brought even further with the telephone. Now a site like Facebook allows me to broadcast my life to those interested into small chunks that over time paint a broader picture of what is happening in my life.
The ways we go about our ingrained human goals evolve and change, but we’re still trying to accomplish the same goals we always have. If you’re trying to create something, don’t attempt a new idea, try building on an existing one.