What’s next for social networking?

I’m sitting by a in florida wondering about this question. (Don’t believe in real vacations:)

First, what have we learned? The facebook has shown us the power of both closed trusted networks and highly penetrated communities. I’ve been waiting for some researcher like danah boyd to show us a graph. I’m sure it would prove that there is an exponential increase in user value as a network goes from 1 % to 10 % and 30 %. (And if someone has already shown this, let me know.)

Myspace has shown us that people (kids so far) have a real interest in an online identity that they *completely* control.

Friendster showed people’s real interest in seeing their extended social maps but so far has fallen short of showing any utility with it.

My take is that kids have a lot more time and therefore interest in just checking each other out and that is why myspace and facebook have shown more growth and staying power.

As people get older and have less free time they are more concerned with the utility of a service and that is why craigslist may be the only large and sustained social network for adults. Some people may question inclusion of CL here but I believe it is a loose knit community network and not just a free classifieds site. How else does one explain its growth in seemingly dormant markets like phila or greenbay.

So what’s next? Well, I don’t believe its over. I think we will yet see one or two more services reach the audience sizes of myspace/facebook but they may look far different than the hosted portal model.

I think the functions of social networking will become more *owned* by communities and end users and less controlled by large media services as their interests are not well aligned.

I can imagine the social networking function hosted on my own pc, possibly integrated with my email and other communications services. This should be totally seamless. When I meet someone I want to add to my network I should be able to just beam them with my phone or blueberry. This should automagically connect our networks.

The resulting social map should me MINE and usable across all web services.
* listings on craigslist or ebay I should be able to invoke it to find trust.
* dating profile on match or jdate * fast reference checking on a resume for personal assistant * new entrepreneurial services should sprout up that offer tons of other services. Let me know if a tennis player I kinda know is nearby and interested in a game. Find me a house to rent or swap in south of france from another sorta friend. * google, yhoo, amzn should all build open social maps into everything they do

Paul martino, marc canter and others designed the open FOAF standard for this purpose a few years ago. While FOAF (friend of a friend) is an open (but encrypted) xml file format for a totally distributed and user controlled approach, the open map could also work like DNS and be replicated openly across many services acting as brokers.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see google local be a first large mover with something like FOAF as they may have the most to gain from more useful local services. Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

11 thoughts on “What’s next for social networking?

  1. The Next Social Networks Won’t Look Like MySpace

    So says Marc Pincus, who knows something about social network from his time at Tribe Networks. Marc wonders if the current online social networks will survive their members, well, growing up and running out of time for mostly checking each…

  2. One of the ways that we believe social networks will begin to differentiate their sites, as well as address their monetization issues (see Sunday’s New York Times article), will be an extending their huge memberships and demographic information into “social search”.
    Extending the power of these types of huge networks into pure search could be a major factor in the evolution of Search, the differentiating factor for social networks and the primary method used for social networks to achieve their earnings potential. These huge online communities and the smaller sub-communities within them could influence virtually all the key factors in search, including relevance, inclusion and exclusion, advertising paradigms, and the actual content itself. The concept, scaled to its potential and infusing some new technologies might rival or even overtake traditional search technologies as the dominant method for the “Y” generation to find online information. Sure, we’ll have to improve the way we search tags and the process of tagging itself. Also, we have to make saving and sharing link information an organic part of a user’s browsing experience, and more.
    On the advertising/revenue level, it could have serious potential. Extending their paradigm into social search would allow sites to utilize search-spawned sponsored links, a very “tried and true” revenue generating component. Plus, multiple layers of like-minded people inside a community, inside other communities, ad infinitum, could bring targeting advertising to the next evolutionary level, and on a huge scale.

  3. You should check out the way XBox 360 has integrated “friends” into its online gaming. It’s similar to what you describe, here.
    If you’re playing Xbox online with some strangers, you can, on the fly, add them to your contact list (“friends”) or ask them to play other games with you later on.
    This way of meeting new people to play online is pretty interesting and simple and, in my crappy opinion, one of the neater features of Xbox.

  4. Mark,
    You might find some of my Facebook research interesting. It has graphs. At the same time, I think we share a lot of opinions about social networks going forward. Here’s a link.

  5. The Next Social Networks Won’t Look Like MySpace

    So says Marc Pincus, who knows something about social networks from his time at Tribe Networks. Marc wonders if the current online social networks will survive their members, well, growing up and running out of time for mostly checking each…

  6. I wonder if ifbyphone’s Voplace at http://ifbyphone.com/about-chat.php will be the next trend in social networking. As one of ifbyphone’s features, Voplace is like a My Space and Facebook, but all by voice. Just like My Space and Facebook you can search for people with similar interests, go directly to a friend’s Voplace, go to a random Voplace, or edit your own homepage on the phone. Since it is accessible by just dialing a phone number from any phone, it could get popular for kids who have a lot of time on their hands, or for when people aren’t around a computer.

  7. Marcus, it’s pretty funny that you wrote this:
    “Let me know if a tennis player I kinda know is nearby and interested in a game.”
    because I just launched a tennis social networking site for that exact purpose…solve the problem in which people cannot find each other to play tennis…good stuff!

  8. Social networks predate the Internet by about 30,000 years, at least. In America, the existence of social networks caught De Tocqueville’s attention and was the basis of his admiration for the new nation’s culture. Later, specialized journals and magazines formed the core of most social networks (and still do). What pass for social networks on the Internet are largely interactive telephone directories, with additional user information but not as much exchange as their purveyors would like to maintain.
    The point is, social networks existed before the Internet and will continue to exist while it is the main regime for communication. But to expect the Internet to be the basis for social networks is not only ahistorical, it defies commonsense. When social networks that mean something — that provide their members with utility and value — migrate to the Internet, we see the fullest potential of the net applied to community activity…not the other way around. Big numbers online are no different from big numbers in the phone directory. There’s just so much novelty in randomness, and then it becomes merely exhausting.

  9. What’s next in Social Networking starts with the fact that social networking is here to stay. I think what’s next is what I call Social Overload. Too many social networking sites (general to micro) and the Overload is already happening. Almost 60% of Social Networking users have at least 2 different networks they actively participate. I think the next step in Social Networking is giving even more control to the users while simplifying the management of Social Networking overload.

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