The ever expanding gap between early adopters and mainstream users
I have been thinking a bit more about the chances for the recent crop of Web 2.0 social media darlings like FriendFeed and Twitter to go mainstream and especially why FriendFeed has gone from zero to being the default social media aggregator for most folks in the tech blogosphere within just a few months while staying pretty much unknown outside of the early adopter tech world. In doing so, I kept wondering if the gap between early adopters and mainstream users isn’t expanding more and more and what that means for services that cater mostly to early adopters.
Corvida from SheGeeks also has some thoughts about the mainstreaming of FriendFeed, Twitter and RSS and at the end, she concludes:
Maybe the masses aren’t ready for these platforms. Still, these are early adopter tools, regardless of the growth that one may be seeing. They all have the potential to go mainstream, but there’s a lot of work to be done. We’re still in our own bubble. Or are we?
I think we are indeed in our own bubble and in some ways, FriendFeed is the natural result of living in that bubble.
Let me backtrack for a moment here:
For any web app (or any product for that matter) to become successful with mainstream, non über-techie users, it first and foremost has to solve a problem. FriendFeed doesn’t really solve a problem for most mainstream users. It’s great for us geeks who have friends scattered all over the Internet, all of whom use Twitter, Jaiku, Flickr, blogs, reddit, delicious, last.fm etc.
Just have a look at the ‘everyone‘ stream on FriendFeed and you quickly get a feeling for who the current users are. Hint: it’s not people sharing photos with their grandparents.
It’s the same reason a lot of people don’t see too much use in using an RSS Reader – you don’t need one if you only browse to five different sites everyday for your news.
I have a feeling that the gap between early adopters and mainstream users isn’t getting any smaller, but rather expanding. A lot of the new services cater mostly towards early adopters, but don’t really solve a problem for mainstream web users.
Maybe if there is a bubble that’s going to pop one of these days it’s going to be VCs realizing that they are better off investing in companies that are serving more mainstream problems (like Mint does for managing finances) and start shying away from more edgy, cutting edge early adopter oriented services