Social Networks Flashback…

Running with the Flashback theme from my last post, I thought I would see what I could dig up some stuff I had said on social networks. Below is a comment I made on David Hornick’s blog in 2005. This is pretty interesting in light of the recent Facebook release:

The fundamental problem with social networks is that there is nothing “social” about them. In their current incarnation, social networks deliver closed and isolated experiences. Contact information is trapped within the bounds of each service, forcing users to subscribe to a number of services such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, Friendster, and AOL instant messenger. This approach is at odds with our cognitive and use case models. More importantly, it does not scale. Everyone has contacts that they leverage in multiple contexts as a function of our relationship and situation. You may have a friend that watch sporting events with, that is a potential customer of your business, and also a member of your band. Which network will you add them to? LinkedIn, or MySpace? Maybe Friendster? Are we going to have a different social network for every context that we can view a person in? I don’t think so. There is one social network. Their may be different views of this network, but society is a single, cohesive entity. There should not be a LinkedIn network, Plaxo network, or Tribe Network. Instead, the social network should be viewed as a single logical service upon which we can build more effective social services that improve our ability to communicate and exchange knowledge. Until there is a mechanism to create an integrated and interoperable social network that cuts across all services, the true power of the collective will remain dormant.

This academic statement is swiftly becoming practical reality. Market pressures have resulted in an increase in the number of social applications vs. pure social networks. In other words, if current trends persist, there will be a lot more applications that ride core social network web services (like Facebook) then social network web services. This is consistent with the increasing widget syndication trend and makes sense from a scale perspective as well. It is hard and expensive to host a massive social network web service. Optimization of queries on directed acyclical graphs suck. (This is my dork side). Hooray grad school.

Does that mean there will only one social network web service? Should everyone give up? Probably not. There will inevitably be several players in this area over the next year, or two. And now all of them will be open services akin to Facebook. The next stage of evolution will be interoperability BETWEEN these social network services. The result? Developers will be able to build cross-platform social applications.

Anyway, this little Hoo needs to jet. Comments/questions/suggestions? Use our friendly commenting engine below. It’s fun and easy!

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  • Nicolas

    "The next stage of evolution will be interoperability BETWEEN these social network services. The result? Developers will be able to build cross-platform social applications."

    Yeah i totally agree with you, and you could even say that the next stage of evolution is the semantic web, sharing public information on profiles and links between profiles (social network). FOAF already provides that.