Thursday, February 14, 2008
Inverting the Social Network
ReadWriteWeb covered a recent presentation by Kevin Marks of Google on the Social Cloud. Utilizing the Social Graph is currently something that is in the realm of developers. They dream up new applications that leverage our shared connections and Google's OpenSocial API makes it easier to deliver these applications to a variety of Social Networking sites. This is all well and good but I believe that adoption of OpenSocial could lead to a new phase in Social Networking. Let me explain... In the current evolution of Social Networks we have the different sites competing to be the leading social network. This has seen Facebook extend beyond its college roots to a more general audience. However, I am convinced that we as individuals separate out aspects of our persona by using different sites. For example, I tend to use Facebook to stay in touch with family and close friends whereas my professional network is on LinkedIn. If OpenSocial reaches a critical mass and makes it easy for us to join up and connect with friends on new sites then we could well see the next phase of Social Networking. This is a world that may be hinted at by Marc Andreessen's Ning. A world of niche social networks that address specific aspects of our persona. Our network of connections may exist in our address book, or in a networked resource like Plaxo, but we will enhance that core web of personal connections with discrete networks that address particular interests. When you think about this, it points to a world that turns the current Facebook model on its head. It is this view of the future that drives my interest in Data Portability. We should be the owners of our social cloud of connections. That information should not be held hostage by the sites we use. This is a fascinating debate on a vitally important issue. It is an issue that the vast majority of people do not fully comprehend the ramifications of.