I’d argue the biggest change in social media came in 2006, with the debut of Twitter and its stream of updates. This format was adopted by Facebook soon after, and the news feed was born. The news feed, that ever updating scroll of text, photos and videos has been the biggest revolution in social networks since someone decided you could make a profile and connect that profile with other profiles and list yourself as single.
Five years later, every other copycat social network has their own crappy version of the news feed. LinkedIn has a news feed. Tumblr has the dashboard. Google+ has the stream. These are all the same thing with a different name to avoid trademark infringement.Every one presents the latest updates in a reverse-chronological order so the most recent update is first.
But does the newsfeed provide the most relevant information? Sure, it can be useful to have the latest information and updates, but information is useless without analysis. You can tell me that my cat smells, but does she smell like flowers or shit? There’s a huge difference in what action I’d take based on how she smells.
Additionally, even with systems such as Facebook’s Edgerank, how do we know what is relevant? Can we really trust a computer to determine what is relevant to individuals based on browser cookies and the actions of other people?
Worse - systems such as Edgerank can be gamed. Facebook marketers now spend their time creating updates that will reach the most potential people based on the posts Edgerank. Who cares about making meaningful updates and impacts when you can just manipulate an algorithm for the max results for your business?
The next great social network will be the one that figures out what comes after the news feed. There has to be a way of presenting relevant, timely updates from users in a different way that is even more addictive and will make more money off of users than what we have now. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m excited to spend even more time alone in front of my computer and smartphone.