Membership in these networks, not unlike the exclusive country clubs where the rich and powerful hobnob, is carefully guarded. At aSW, only a subset of established members have the power to invite new users to join. In developing the site, founder Erik Wachtmeister rejected the prevailing Web 2.0 business model of attracting large audiences so you can sell ads to big brands. Instead, he confines membership to the relatively small group of people who travel in the same elite, often moneyed, social circles. "The site is not very valuable if it is polluted by people you don't know," says Wachtmeister. His goal was "to create a private place where people could be much more forthcoming with information."
Critics are split into two camps: Some call aSW dreadfully elitist, while others say it's not exclusive enough. Nonmembers have nicknamed the site "Snobster," arguing that its invitation-only policy contradicts the premise of open communications upon which the Web was built. Then there are those on the inside who complain that, in an effort to become profitable, aSW is accepting less "valuable" members.