invititis n: An inflamation whereby a person is overloaded with invitations to join different web sites, often sites used for social networking.
In recent history many sites have allowed users to join only after they have been invited. Some of the more notable of these sites include GMail, Orkut, Joost and Pownce. So many sites are only open by invitation that a community named Invite Share has been created so that people can get trade invitations!
Why are so many sites invitation only? The most used reason is that it helps to limit how many people are using the service. Since most sites that are invitation only are in beta, this is a very good idea. It allows the web site operators to give their application real world test while preventing the servers from being overloaded.
But I think there is another reason. Going “Invitation Only” gives the service a “cool” factor. If only a select group of people have access to site then those who have access are cool and those on the outside are not. It is kind of like standing outside a club in New York City begging the bouncer to be let in.
Invitations also create a buzz. If only a select group of people know what it’s like on the inside a lot of other people will want to know. There will be blog posts and e-mails and IMs set. People will be talking.
The most recent “Invitation Only” site that I’m aware of is Pownce. I have invites, I can’t give them away. No one wants them. It could be that Pownce is trying to break into a market that already has some heavy hitters - Twitter and Jaiku. Or it could be something that I like to call “invititis.”
As I mentioned above, invititis is an inflammation, an overload of invitations to join a web site. “If you’re cool you’ll join GMail.” “Hey you’re a loser if you don’t join Pownce.” It goes on and on. I think people are sick of being pressured to bounce from site to site. Tired of being with the in-crowd one day and waking up only to find that the new cool is somewhere else.
The Internet is supposed to be for sharing ideas and knowledge. If you create a website, and it needs to be tested then by all means open it up to a limited amount of people. But the idea of invitations is an exercise in vanity. “Look at how many people want to join my service. They’re even selling invitations on Ebay!”
I too have fallen prey to invititis. I scoured the ‘net for Gmail invitations. I quickly emailed someone when they announced that they had Joost and Pownce invitations. But I think the time has come that I back away from trying to catch the next wave as it is heading for the shore of common place.