Community vs functionality…and the winner is…

Community trumps functionality every time. I’ve just finished reading Steven Levy’s book In the Plex which is a brilliant portrait of the rise of Google. It is staggering just how much change that one company has wrought in the world. But the book ends with Google facing the fact that the new “Google” is Facebook – young, iconoclastic and, crucially, in tune with social instincts.

One in every seven minutes online are spent on Facebook, a phenomenon which has convinced Google, belatedly, that it needs to be in this race – hence Google +.

The fact that community trumps functionality every time was brought home to me last Christmas. All three of my (nearly grown up) children wanted new mobile phones. The two boys were set on a new Android phone – the Samsung Galaxy S2 (actually they wanted the S3 but it isn’t out yet) – but my daughter was adamant that she wanted a Blackberry.

This was painful to me as I have been a long-time Blackberry user who gave up when the iPhone demonstrated what a smartphone should really be like. I tried to talk her into getting another smart phone – an Android or even and iPhone – but she wasn’t having it. So I bought what they each wanted.

On Christmas day the boys were delighted with their S2s – and I have to say they were impressive devices – large, clear screens and masses of power and functionality.

But my daughter was ecstatic with her Blackberry Bold. It wasn’t as expensive as the boys’ phones (and in my view it certainly wasn’t as good)  but she loved it. And the reason? Blackberry’s messenger app BBM. This is the killer app for her and her circle. Everyone, it seems, uses it and the volume of messages she now sends and receives has gone through the roof. I’m not sure this is entirely a good thing, but it has certainly proved a point to me.

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