On Wednesday, social media startup Moped announced $1 million in seed funding, GigaOM reports. Moped’s product is a repackaged version of Twitter direct messages. Direct messaging on Moped is, unlike Twitter, private. Users who are not mutual followers can message each other, too. GigaOM points out that Moped faces a host of already established rivals, ranging from Twitter to SMS to IRC to email to…well, you get the point. In fact, Moped seems closest to a stripped down email platform with Twitter syntax. This style of innovation is evolution, not genesis: the odds are much higher that Twitter or a rival will buy Moped than Moped becoming a threat to its rivals. What happens, however, when evolution assumes the form of recycling?
The ouroboros is a mythical creature, a snake that eats its own tale. Bent into a hoop, the ouroboros represents circularity and cyclicality. Although evolution implies progress, a product like Moped demonstrates how innovation can turn inwards or resurface old ideas. Ouroboros innovation, or a recapitulation of the target of innovation—like how Moped innovates on Twitter by launching a quasi-email product—signals the problematic intervention of finance capital into communities of innovation. Baited with the promise of easy money, innovators are hooked into recursive loops, returning again and again to the same structures, problems, and solutions. Moped, if well-designed and marketed, could make a little money—for its investors and core team. But an ouroboros innovation is destined to consume itself before achieving maturity.