Invention and development, or the lack thereof

So over here in Germany there has been this Facebook clone StudiVZ created in October 2005. The people behind it ran with the template, translated it to German and started their very own social network (another word to add to the ugh-list), with a different color, of course. I’ve been a member for almost two years now and while other services expanded, changed and got better – or died -, this one didn’t really do any of the above. The biggest changes were the addition of more and more advertisments, some privacy changes that got them into the major news concerning selling personal user information, etc., and the ability to share your status. Guess where they got the latter. Yip, exactly.

They are copying, cloning, but not inventing or developing. A few changes in a style sheet does not count as a development or getting better. I’m really wondering where the millions went that Holtzbrinck invested back in January 2007. At the moment it looks like every cent is spent in suing everyone left and right who even thinks about using the letters VZ (short for “Verzeichnis”, german for directory).

I’m waiting every day now for the announcement about implementing a great set of external add-ons, developed by individuals. But I guess that this one would be even too obvious for them. Quite possibly they’ll hide it behind Google’s OpenSocial. For the time being it looks like they are just trying to defend their name. Don’t know how long it’ll take until someone will stand up and won’t take the nonsense accusations because of two letters.

Overall it’s just a question of time until any of these services, Facebook or StudiVZ, will get replaced by another, better, more colorful, or just different one. The same happened to LiveJournal or MySpace before and it’ll happen again. Some people will stick to the known service but new users, especially tech savvy, will move on to the new ones, thus creating a shift in the people they now. Some of them in turn will start using the new one too. Currently the big thing in the US is Twitter, I’m using it myself, but it’s no question that they will evolve, they have to. If they don’t they’ll get left behind – first by the early adopters who join every site which promises a great idea, and then maybe later by the mainstream.

I’m wondering what it takes for a service that is mainstream compatible, will get the attraction to get these people and also catches the important early adopters who spread the word. Currently, MySpace seems to be one of the mass-compatible sites. At the same time it is “out” for people who use newer sites, which offer a broader set of features. Most of the profiles at MySpace are plain ugly and just show the usual “thx 4 the add” comments.

So what is the Facebook follow-up? When will Mr. Facebook finally take the billions from Microsoft & Co. and run with them? Or will we see an IPO? Questions aplenty.