On Wednesday, Eons.com founder Jeff Taylor lowered the age restriction of the popular 50 and older Baby Boomer social networking websites to 13. Eons has emerged in the last year as the number one social networking site for Baby Boomers in 55 and older communities. The popular site previously banned anyone younger than 50 from being a member. The Wall Street Journal hailed the site as the "Myspace for Baby Boomers" and it has grown widely in popularity in the last year. Much of the Eons community was dismayed with the message from Taylor on the front page of the site announcing the change.
At the most recent count, over 500 people had responded to Jeff's announcement with a majority of them showing displeasure with the change. Some of the messages alluded to a "bait and switch" site that is "only interested in making a buck." It is understandable that much of the Eons community is angered. After all, they signed up for a social networking site - something uncharacteristic of the 50+ generation until last year - on the promise that it would be restricted to people 50 and older.
While the site still plans to focus on Boomer related issues and topics, it has likely alienated some of the people that helped it grow in popularity. Still, the move will likely benefit many people who wanted to be a part of a social network for Boomers but did not meet the 50+ requirement of the site. Eons was facing a dilemma in that they promoted themselves as the site for Boomers, but still blocked out a large number of the Boomer population with their age restriction. The youngest of the Baby Boomers are still 44 and would have been six years away from being allowed to join the site. At the end of the day, Taylor saw the writing on the way that likely told him he was missing out on a large number of users by restricting it to only a certain audience.
Despite the push back from many of the responders on the site, the move will probably help increase the number of members. Take the Facebook example of just a couple years ago. Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, originally restricted his popular site to Ivy League schools and then later all college students. When his company made the decision to allow anyone in the general population to join, they faced scrutiny from their "college only" members. But just one year later, the company boasts 63 million members and is worth an estimated $15 billion. The effects of the Eons decision still remain undetermined. On one hand, the decision will likely help the site become a better social network.
Now, more Baby Boomers can join and share in the collective atmosphere that makes social networks so great. Plus, the look and feel of the site that caters to the 50+ crowd will probably keep many of the younger generations on their preferred Facebook and MySpace networks. On the other hand, changing the age limit from 50 to 13 may have been a bit drastic. The site could have likely accomplished their goal of increasing users by changing it to a more amicable age like 30 or 40 without alienating so many of its current members.
Regardless of the decision to lower the age, Eons still remains a great place for those in 55 and older communities to make new friends, reconnect with old ones and share in a collective community of likeminded individuals.