Diaspora, the project started with the aim of building a decentralized social network has had its popularity dropping like a stone. It may not be dead, but after all the hype that was promised the alpha lacked a lot of what was promised, and the software had major (but perhaps not unsolvable) security problems.
This was originally intended to be a rant about pointless Facebook notifications. After thinking about it a while, I realized that Facebook wasn't unique. Nor did only social networking sites exhibit the phenomenon of scope expansion, aka crap creep
What bothers me is not the encroaching ads, not the arbitrary banninations the process of transformation caused by trying to do everything and be everything to everyone. No wonder people get overwhelmed. In the late 90's it was banner and popup advertising, as people expecting something for nothing were expected to put up with a constant barrage of ads. Now? The new vogue is social networking features. Combine this natural tendency of trying to be all things to all people with the tendency of the social network to try to include *everything*, and you've got a nightmare on rocket roller skates.
The usability and value of Facebook has gone drastically downhill ever since they opened up an API. The many trivial applications have created a surge in useless invitations, and pollute the previously-informative status feed. Sure, you can customize where things go on your profile page, but you can't get rid of all the notifications you aren't interested in because their system doesn't learn from what items you click the 'X' on, and because there are more applications created daily.
The only web services vendor I can recall right now that *doesn't* do this to their services is -- go figure -- Google. Sure they've got a boatload of products but they don't try to shove everything on the same page.
Mark my words: the future of social networking applications is in sites which have a more tightly focused scope, or towards one particular interest. That is, unless social networking ends up being just another fad footnote in the rapidly-evolving Internet landscape.
The 'Groups' functionality of the big social networking sites might seem to do this, but it's not the same thing. On a social network devoted to a particular topic you can find only people who are interested in that topic. Not your coworkers, or creepy people from high school that you don't want to have to deal with -- just people with some sort of an interest in a certain topic. There's a sense of simplicity to that.
The presence of specific groups on larger social networking sites leads to a particularly annoying problem: too many Group Collectors. You've seen this type of person, Only slightly better than the Friend Collectors. They focused on joining as many groups as possible while never participating in any of them. I wouldn't be so annoyed with the type if they didn't insist upon sending 'join me in this group' notifications to everyone of their 'friends'.
I don't know how I would manage under the barrage of notifications if I were a friend collector. I think I'd go stark raving mad. As it is, they're irritating and useless ("Foo and Bar received a UselessSuperFancyWallPost -- click here to try to see it and be denied access")
The inevitable fragmentation of the social network is why platforms that allow distributed data management and distributed authentication are the wave of the future. An undercurrent to the current state of the 'net is that people already have too many user accounts and it's getting hard to remember who uses what. I've suffered from this problem ever since about 1999 or thereabouts. To this day I still can't login to most sites using the email I used to register as opposed to some username which I may or may not remember.
The greatest irony: I get group notifications from facebook groups whose purpose it is to protest against the pointless groups and group notifications! I want to choke and die at seeing those. It's not funny any more guys...
When using a CMS, make sure that you understand what it is capable of. Or find someone who does. Or find someone who doesn't want to cheat you out of a boatload of money.
Otherwise, you'll end up like this person mentioned in this post and solicit $80k (or $25k) in donations to build a 'new system' because you demonstrate a serious deficiency of understanding how it works.
The source post I've linked to contains a lot of sarcasm, but here's the technical rundown.
$80k to do what?