Last week, law professor Eric Goldman reiterated his prediction that “the very architecture of Wikipedia contains the seeds of its own destruction,” and that it will fail in four years due to the fact that “as Wikipedia traffic grows, it becomes a juicier target for marketers seeking to promote themselves” and “Wikipedia will enter a death spiral where the rate of junkiness will increase rapidly until the site becomes a wasteland.”
A lot of speculation and guesswork accompany the argument, but a marginalization of Wikipedia is certainly possible – sooner or later than four years and not necessarily as a result of marketers. It’s easy to forget that as entrenched in our psyches as Wikipedia is, it’s still very much an experiment in social media – along with Myspace.com, Second Life, YouTube, and many others – played out on a very large scale.
Myspace has its issues with predators and whether or not it can remain hip as monetization and regulation set in. Second Life has its woes with vandals as Don Clark notes in Virtual Vandalism on Second Life. And YouTube is still a phenomenon searching for an identity.
There’s always the possibility that one or more of these implodes from a variety of reasons having to do with technology or community, or witnesses the rise of a competing platform (remember CompuServe?) – some next big thing that draws current fans onto a grander adventure.
The demise of a popular social media site in favor of a replacement or because the community model can’t be sustained should not be surprising. We are very much at the beginning of these experiments and we have much to learn as both providers and users.