The Elusive Quest For Enduring Cool

Having poked around Google + for a bit over the past 12 hours, I’m now more than ever convinced of a modified version of a thesis my friend Tom Lee laid out a while ago—we’re probably fated to endless cycling through different social networking applications.

I think the underlying issue here was actually laid out extremely well in The Social Network and then ignored in the ensuing discussion of the film. But the movie has Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly emphasize that what makes Facebook an appealing product is that it’s “cool” and “exclusive” and they shouldn’t ruin it by making it uncool. At the same time, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be successful. And the only way to succeed over time is to expand. But the more you expand, the less exclusive you become. And the more successful you become, the more lawsuits you get embroiled with. Sitting around a conference table watching your fancy lawyers talk to some other guy’s fancy lawyers isn’t cool. Getting a status update from your mom isn’t cool. Sitting through a meeting at work about your company’s Facebook strategy isn’t cool. When I first used Twitter, it seemed cool. When the first group of politicians started using Twitter, it was clear that Twitter wasn’t actually cool. But those politicians were at least cooler than your average politician. But once it becomes expected that politicians will be on Twitter, there’s nothing cool about it. Joe Lieberman having a staffer write on his behalf that “As we prepare to celebrate Jul. 4, Gen. Petraeus’ life and leadership remind us that America is still a land of heroes” is incredibly uncool.

So whether it’s Google+ or something else, people will naturally end up gravitating toward some new thing. Not because it’s “better” in any clear way, but because it’s different in some ways and just cooler and more exclusive. At least at the beginning.