What Even Is a Social Network Anymore?

“LinkedIn Is Cool Now,” Businessweek declared this week. It’s also a dating app, according to Hypebae. Oh, and dating apps are for networking, The Wall Street Journal says.

If you can’t tell, social networks are having a bit of an identity crisis.

Facebook, once the center of the platform universe, has somehow become the place I go to sell off my old furniture. (If you live in the New York area, I am trying to offload a very nice desk. Priced to move!) As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, TikTok is increasingly used as a search engine. And Twitter is, well, X. I find myself using it less and less with each passing day.

It doesn’t help that for years now, the name of the platform game has been shameless imitation. Snapchat’s stories are the canonical example, aped so effectively by Instagram that it’s easy to forget where the idea came from in the first place.

More recently, Spotify is leaning into TikTok-style vertical videos, and TikTok is starting its own subscription music service to compete with Spotify. Meta, as you probably know, created an entire clone platform, Threads, to feast on the carcass of post-Elon Musk Twitter. (Also, remember Bluesky?) Musk, for his part, plans to turn X into “the everything app” for messaging, finance and beyond.

He’s certainly not the first person or company with that goal. The tech industry seems to believe there’s a wide appetite out there for a platform that does it all — the best and most useful parts of the social networks and other apps we constantly toggle between every day.

For me, this magical turducken app would combine TikTok’s algorithmic power for serving me hyper-specific videos, the dopamine rush of getting likes on Instagram, the erstwhile ease of using Facebook to invite your friends to a party, the weirdness of Tumblr of yore and, honestly, LinkedIn just as it is. Oh, also Venmo — but everyone’s transactions have to be public so I can stalk them.

The thing, though, is that we, the users, are already out here engineering our own everything apps by inventing and retrofitting additional uses for existing platforms. That’s how you get LinkedIn functioning like a dating app. Or, in the reverse, dating apps becoming a pretty decent place to network.

All apps are everything apps. We built them ourselves.

Internet Candy

Here’s what else is happening online this week.

We thought you should know: There is something called #GraveTok.

Samantha Jones is back, baby!

When a date rejects you because of your follower count.

See you at Fyre Festival 2. (L.A. Times)

Threads is struggling to retain users. (Business Insider)

Threads wishes it had a thread this good.

Bama Rush is back, and according to the Opinion columnist Tressie McMillan Cottom, it’s the same as ever.

Nike scores an own goal

In the week after the Women’s World Cup, soccer fans doggedly tagged Nike on social media — just not in the way the company might have hoped.

Fans were irate that Nike failed to offer a replica jersey for Mary Earps, the English player who was recognized as the tournament’s best goalkeeper. “She’s in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final & we can’t buy her jersey,” one fan wrote on X. “Absolutely insane.”

Nike did not release goalkeeper jerseys for any of the 13 teams it sponsored in the tournament, including England. But as Earps emerged as one of the tournament’s standout players, the uproar led to a motion in British Parliament and several salty comments from Earps herself.

The online pressure just might have paid off. On Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for Nike told me and my colleague Elizabeth Paton that the company would release “limited quantities” of the jerseys.

Fans appear excited by the news, but it may be bittersweet. When you go after a company online, the best-case scenario is that it will adjust course. Nike did. Now, Earps fans have to decide if they still want to fork over money to the company they spent the past week criticizing.

—Callie Holtermann

Madison Malone Kircher is a reporter for The Times. She writes about the internet for the Styles desk. More about Madison Malone Kircher

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