Names of Social Networks and the Experience Architectures They Engender

Consider the names of social networks — MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, Tribe — and how they inflect the experience of each site despite the fact that each site enjoys more or less the same functionality.

MySpace is precisely that — a space for and by an individual. It is a user's space on the web, there for him or her to mark up, blog, spin. Sure, there are friends and hook-ups on MySpace but somehow Facebook came to own that function.

Facebook references the old printed facebooks of collegiate yesteryear in which upperclassmen were given a book of the faces of the incoming class. A facebook is essentially social. It is a vehicle to interact with others.

Hi5, too, is essentially social: a high-5 takes two, after all. And, like its name, it is a social activity for the young with a suggestion of the groovy. And such is the site: young and cool.

Tribe, too, is social — but suggests nodes, groups, bound by common interests. And such is Tribe.com.

All four of these sites do basically the same thing — profile pages, news feeds, messaging. And yet each offers a distinct architecture of that experience — leading into this room before entering that, emphasizing this feature and not that.

And it is the name — among other factors, no doubt — that sets this all up, that inflects the experience just so.

And in turn inflects the entire architecture of the experience — from what visitors expect to what the company develops. In the name, is a vision — like it or not.