It Begins with a Loop
Behind most every network effect you’ll find many a feedback loop that are ultimately driving the growth of the network. Focus too much on the “network” and you may miss the trees for the forest; certainly you’ll miss the critically important, real feedback loops occuring between the individual members of the network. It’s these feedback loops that will decide the fate of the network at the end of the day. The “network effect” is just an emergent phenomenon of feedback loops at work. So perhaps the curious “failure” of Google Wave (software never really fails, or succeeds, it just grows, or doesn’t grow, like a city or a person) suggests that just being social, being open, being free or “sticky” or facilitating communication is not enough — real, web-scale growth requires tight, powerful positive feedback loops. Many of the web’s biggest success stories from blogging and RSS to Google itself aren’t so much the product of network effects but of feedback loops that have allowed very small systems to bootstrap into much bigger systems. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and focus on making services that are compelling for two people before worrying about a billion users.