Over the last decade social tools have become not only prevalent, they have become critical to business. Just under a decade ago I created a LinkedIn profile. I doubt I was in the first wave of early adopters, but I was early. So early I forgot about it for a few years until I started getting lots of people connecting with me. Now any social business will use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool, maybe posting status updates of a new position but certainly checking out the LinkedIn profile of those who apply for positions.

Twitter has changed the way people do business. It’s often a quick source for crowd-sourcing questions and keeping up to date. A couple of days ago I responded to a question about ExtND because of information I’d gleaned from a separate channel, that the developers Jack Ratcliff and Rich Waters were now involved in ExtJS. I referred to Marky Roden’s articles on implementing ExtJS. Within minutes the conversation had reached so wide that Jack had responded that they are planning on revisiting ExtND. I’m connected to them now and I’m going to be keeping tabs on the developments around ExtND.

Social is an inextricable part of our lives.

But over the last year a new and disturbing trend has begun. I’m calling this trend anti-social. And it’s spreading.

Blackberry (or RIM as they were named at the time) were the first high profile company to make the foray into anti-social. They bought Gist, who provided a social aggregation tool that searched mail and other sources to aggregate a dashboard about recipients and senders of mail messages. I didn’t use it as much as I should have done. That turned out to be a good thing. Because Gist discontinued their social tool in September of last year. Their focus since their acquisition had turned to building the contacts aspect of Blackberry 10. Social was shelved.

A few months after, another social tool, the cross-platform cloud-based scheduling tool Tungle was also discontinued. They too had been acquired by Blackberry. Their focus too was moved to Blackberry 10, the calendaring aspect. Again, social was shelved.

Today I picked up a tweet from Stuart McIntyre that Twitter, after acquiring Tweetdeck, are ending support for the non-web apps. There have been rumblings of discontent about changes in Twitter’s API that affected the proliferation of third-party Twitter clients. Tweetdeck was one of the most widely used clients before Twitter acquired it. I’ve seen a number of heavy Twitter users bemoaning it since the acquisition, although attitudes have become more positive over recent months. This news is not going to go down well. There will still be some third-party clients. There have to be. Because Twitter’s own clients are so appalling it will not survive without them. There are too many clever people who use it. If the user experience is abysmal, the APIs and access agreements so restrictive, someone will create a startup that competes and is more open.

Perhaps anti-social is just a natural progression of social moving from startup to enterprise. The natural progression from focussing on proliferation to focussing on profit. Perhaps it’s just human nature. But for those of us who have first-hand experience of the benefits of social, it does leave a bitter after-taste. But it’s also unlikely to be the last example.

4 thoughts on “The Rise of Anti-Social”

  1. I agree it’s business. But for three companies – Gist, Tungle and Twitter – whose business has been built on social, this is a volte face from their roots.

    Business can remain social, as OpenNTF shows. When IBM increased their involvement I remember concerns of the direction it would go. Kudos to IBM for only strengthening its position.

    To step outside the yellow bubble, Oracle did the same with OpenOffice a little while after buying Sun, confirming its future by contributing it to The Apache Software Foundation’s incubator. My understanding (right or wrong) is that Symphony became a product because of concerns about OpenOffice’s future and once OpenOffice was donated to Symphony, IBM threw their weight also firmly behind that, donating the Symphony code. Kudos to Oracle for doing what Blackberry and Twitter have not, and kept a product from one of their acquisitions open and social.

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