None of us could possibly have understood what it would mean to have a billion or two billion people potentially using these platforms regularly,” said Parker. “That wasn’t something that factored into anyone’s analysis in the starting of these companies. You just want to be a successful company. You want to understand the mechanisms that work, you want to play into them, you want to reinforce them, you want to be a successful company.”
While it is refreshing to hear some self reflection after the fact about the consequences of building a social platform driven by profit with an incentive to get people to engage with it – personal and social costs be-dammed.
I think people did for-see and could understand some of the negative effects he is discussing – the problem is they just were not in the mix of young men founding these companies at the time. The fact is the narrow demographic of who was empowered with funds to create these systems (By men likc Sean Parker and Peter Theil) and who thcy subsequently chose to hire and listen to early on (Read the Boy Kings to get the inside scoop on that) speaks volumes about what was built.
As a side note I developed an outline for building a distributed social network for spiritual activist leaders and their followers in 2003-4. I even raised $35,000 and had two protoypes build in Drupal. I like to think if I got funding beyond that and had the chance to develop the vision we were thinking about the social consequences.
Communities considering the future of social tools and online communities did think thoughtfully about the future and how things could play out and what was needed to support things evolving well from a user-centric perspective. A great starting point published in 2003 is the Augmented Social Network: Building Identity and Trust into the Next Generation Internet.