Friday, July 23, 2010

Social networks and statehood: The future is another country | The Economist

Another timely Facebook/social software reality check; read the full article

To many, that forecast still smacks of cyber-fantasy. But the rise of Facebook at least gives pause for thought. If it were a physical nation, it would now be the third most populous on earth. Mr Zuckerberg is confident there will be a billion users in a few years. Facebook is unprecedented not only in its scale but also in its ability to blur boundaries between the real and virtual worlds. A few years ago, online communities evoked fantasy games played by small, geeky groups. But as technology made possible large virtual arenas like Second Life or World of Warcraft, an online game with millions of players, so the overlap between cyberspace and real human existence began to grow.

From the users’ viewpoint, Facebook can feel a bit like a liberal polity: a space in which people air opinions, rally support and right wrongs. What about the view from the top? Is Facebook a place that needs governing, just as a country does? Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures, a venture-capital firm, has argued that the answer is yes. In the spirit of liberal politics, he thinks the job of Facebook’s managers is to create a space in which citizens and firms feel comfortable investing their time and money to create things.

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Social networks and statehood: The future is another country | The Economist

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