At least not for social networks. A blog by Robert Basic about new features at blepper, a German Twitter alternative, got me thinking.
What is the main feature of a social network? Connecting people! And to enable connections between people, you have to reach a critical mass of people first.
There is already a million ways to connect to other people. Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and German services like StudiVZ, WKW, XING…
Most of them are not perfect. But just providing a more feature-rich service than an established competitor is a recipe for disaster. Pownce had to learn this the hard way. Facebook never really took off in Germany, because StudiVZ took the German market first. My experience is that almost every German you find on Facebook, met people abroad. She didn’t sign up for the better photo gallery, but for people.
StudiVZ grew big fast and then sucked for a long period of time. Lots of performance and privacy issues. People stayed.
Twitter grew big fast and then sucked for a long period of time. Lots of performance issues. People stayed.
I simply can’t think of one example where a new social network overtook an established competitor due to features.