The technically superior solution does not always capture the market. A couple experiences with web services lately have reinforced this idea. The poster child for community trumping reliability is Twitter, which has had noticeable growing pains that have involved extended outages and general flakiness of the service. As I type this, my morning stream of Twitter messages is going through spurts and sputters as the service alternates between available and down. Despite the downtime and total lack of reliability, I keep using the service. Why? Community. The list of folks I’m following on Twitter represents a good group of folks whose interests overlap with mine, primarily local folks or intelligent people from the technology and photography industries. I could switch to something a bit more reliable, but unless everyone else switches, I lose value.
Flickr’s contacts features have been broken for a few days. One of the great features of Flickr is the ability to add contacts, then look at a unified view that shows the latest material uploaded by your contacts. This is one of the key social aspects to the site (along with interest groups). Photo hosting sites are all over the place; the value in Flickr is being able to quickly and easily screen material from friends and others whose work you admire. I trust that the Flickr group is working hard to resolve the issue. Despite the fact that it’s broken, I haven’t gone and switched all my photos to a new service. Why? Because I’d lose the community. Sure, there’s some great work in other places, but I have built relationships with the photographers on Flickr, and those relationships will outlast a few days of downtime.
[tags]community, twitter, flickr, reliability, outages[/tags]