Implicit Social Networks

{Image CC by jared Thanks!}

Rogel rants about social networks here and here. We (=outbrain) are often categorized as being a social network focused on sharing of blog content. I had this question come up on several occasions, especially with VC’s, and I get annoyed every time. After all, I’ve been known to quote this…:

"As a matter of fact, I think I know more social networks than people…"

I always argued the notion of outbrain being a social network. That’s exactly what I was trying to avoid! I didn’t want to enter my contacts in the 173rd site where my only real practical use would be invitation management… I have enough of that on LinkedIn and FaceBook, etc, etc!

But it kept bugging me… after all, it is true that outbrain is a platform for social recommendations of blog content… hmmmm – did we fall in the trap we were trying to avoid?

Then one day, my co-founder Ori made a brilliant observation:

outbrain is an implicit social network

That’s it! The world of social networks breaks into 2 categories: explicit networks and implicit ones. I think they can roughly be categorized as follows:

  • Explicit Social Network – a person is defined by the people s/he connects to
    (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace are good examples)
  • Implicit Social Network – a person is defined by his/her interests
    (Last.FM, Amazon, Netflix and outbrain are good examples)

The power of implicit social networks is that they are not limited to the people you happen to know. Their weakness is in letting algorithms make social decisions for people. If the algorithms are good and the data set is comprehensive, magic happens. We’re getting there…


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  • Rogel| September 22, 2007 at 10:22PM

    I was missing a definition, and I really like Ori’s. I think that initiatives that use social segments as a back end tool generating much more value than the constant annoying waste of time of those who creates “Social Networks”.

  • Andrew Parker| September 23, 2007 at 11:11AM

    You may already be aware of this, but that image from “jared” is the same guy who is the flash guru behind all the beautiful flash features at Etsy.

  • Yaron Galai| September 23, 2007 at 3:15PM

    Andrew – thanks for the heads up… I had no idea… Just loved the graphics! (GMTA)

  • Gab| November 5, 2007 at 5:17PM

    I now recall I used the explicit/implicit terms to distinguish our text mining technology we’ve developed in 2001.
    ISN is a brilliant definition for confronting those investors who mistakenly categorize you to something they alredy very familiar with (and, usually, is a very worn out definition). Coining this expression you made my entrepreneurial life much easier. Thank you.
    BTW: In case you were worried, our startup is in far of being any competition to outbrain, yet, it is a proud ‘implicit social network’ venture.

  • Yaron Galai| November 5, 2007 at 10:22PM

    Cool Gab – it’s comments like yours that make blogging worth it. Thanks!!
    Best of luck with your ISN venture!