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Challenges of Reverse Network Effects

The article discusses the idea behind what might go wrong in the expansion of a social network if it is not curated properly over time. It claims that in absence of “robust curation,” an online platform may lose value as they grow. Since it is the user that creates value on the platform most of the time, on expansion without curation, an online platform may lead to the creation of greater noise making the platform less useful.

It gives an example of Quora – as Quora scales,” less sophisticated” users might enter the system, thereby increasing noise and leading to “rapid deletion of value for existing user.” This starts a reverse feedback loop because current experts start abandoning the system owing to the poor quality, which leads to further loss of quality, which in turn leads to other experts leaving. A loop like this can degrade the value of an online platform. The article further gives an example of how “ChatRoulette,” a network of video chatters that connects you with anyone across the world at random, met its doom due to the absence of a robust curation mechanism.

Further reasons explained in the article include “increase in abuse with scale,” communities becoming “echo chambers” over time, “developing a hive mind set,” etc. Thus, it is not only essential to consider network effects for expanding an online community (or any other product for that matter) but also equally important to consider and work against reverse network effects once the network has gained momentum.

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