The overwhelming success of Web 2.0, within which online social networks are key actors, has induced a paradigm shift in the nature of human interactions. The user-driven character of Web 2.0 services has allowed researchers to quantify large-scale social patterns for the first time. However, the mechanisms that determine the fate of networks at the system level are still poorly understood. For instance, the simultaneous existence of multiple digital services naturally raises questions concerning which conditions these services can coexist under. Analogously to the case of population dynamics, the digital world forms a complex ecosystem of interacting networks. The fitness of each network depends on its capacity to attract and maintain users’ attention, which constitutes a limited resource. In this paper, we introduce an ecological theory of the digital world which exhibits stable coexistence of several networks as well as the dominance of an individual one, in contrast to the competitive exclusion principle. Interestingly, our theory also predicts that the most probable outcome is the coexistence of a moderate number of services, in agreement with empirical observations.
See more at http://www.nature.com/articles/srep10268