A Disturbing Comparison Between Disney World in the 70’s and Today’s Social Networks

How are today's social networks like Disney World?


When Disney World opened in Florida in the 70’s, it was a massive economic boon for Central Florida. All around Orlando, motels, restaurants, and other attractions opened and began raking in money from families who visited the park during the day, then went looking for cheap dining and accommodations at night.


You may remember your parents begrudgingly forking over big bucks for that family vacation. Those hordes of vacationers represented an irresistible temptation for Disney.


Disney World wanted vacationing families to spend all of their money at the resort. Not some of their money. ALL of their money. So they took steps to ensure that guests would stay in their magical world and never leave for the duration of their stay. They built lower cost hotels onsite. They offered a “dining plan” that could be added to the price of admission that would cover meals. They created a system of FREE shuttles that took guests from the airport to the parks and back, eliminating the need to rent a car.


Now, social networks sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are moving down the same path.


Twitpic, the third-party Twitter application designed to share pictures through Twitter was recently forced to close down. Twitpic was one of the most successful third-party applications of all time and was, at one point, essentially the default tool for sharing images on Twitter.


The story here is straightforward: In 2011, Twitter launched it’s own baked-in image sharing tool. However even after three years, most people still used Twitpic. So Twitter took Twitpic to court. Because Twitpic didn’t have endless resources to pay for legal counsel it shut down.


Twitpic isn’t the first third party application to be shut down by a social network and it won’t be the last. In an effort to “keep you in the park” we can expect to see more social networks even more aggressively developing tools to replace third party apps and plugins. Expect Facebook to release a contest app to replace Offerpop. Twitter will release more robust analytics and scheduling tools to replace Hootsuite. Then, the big networks will put their limitless resources to work shutting down the third-party apps that preceded their own tools.


They are doing it for a simple reason: Advertising.


Not only do social networks want more users to be exposed to advertising, they want more advertisers large and small to be tempted by that “Boost Post” button. After all, any third party that allows brands to skip the ads for ads is a lost conversion.


Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks don’t want some ad dollars. They want ALL of the ad dollars, and they want to make it super easy for brands to spend money from their owned web properties. Brands should weigh the risks before they invest in software companies that sit on top of social networks. Here today, Disneyfied tomorrow…

For more on what the future may hold for Twitter, check out our article on the Twitter Death Spiral.