The future of social networks

It used to be that MySpace was for personal networking, LinkedIn is for business networking, Flickr is for photos, Twitter is for short networked messages, and blogs are for long messages. But the rise in popularity of Facebook has changed all of that, by allowing other networks to plug in and function within their architecture. Flickr (for photos), Flixster (for movies), LinkedIn (for business networking), WordPress (for blogging), and dozens more, have created ways to use their media within Facebook.

With this rapid rise of Facebook as a general social networking site (not just for high schoolers and college-goers) many people are wondering about social network fatigue, about the portability of their data, where it will end, and what the next “hot” social and business networking sites will be. (Network effects getting weaker?)

However, these are not the right questions, and this is not where the future of social networks will be.

The future of social and business networking will be that people choose to belong to a combination of networks. (As they already do.) For example, person “A” might belong to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Craigslist while person “B” belongs to Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, and Flickr. Each network will function by its own rules (as they do now– for example, privacy is definitely higher in Facebook than MySpace.) People will utilize the networks that they feel comfortable in, and that their colleagues, friends, family, and peers belong to. People’s personas will partly be a reflection of which networks they belong to, just as they display multiple physical brands as clothing or accessories. In this regard, the next wave of networking sites will be ones that are much more closed and have greater privacy, security, and membership restrictions like Facebook, than the wide-open MySpace.

Why will multiple social/business networking sites be the norm? Why won’t one network emerge as the undisputed king? Because just as one-size-fits all solutions don’t work in businesses or clothing, one-size-fits-all networks simply don’t exist, and will never exist. Some people have no walls between their academic, work and personal life, while others prefer a sharp division and want to keep their private lives private. (Oxford using Facebook to catch students)

Since belonging to multiple social/business networking sites will become the norm (if it isn’t already), the next logical evolution will be a service that centralizes the most common data about you, and syncs it with every site that you belong to. For instance, your primary photo. That’s something that many people update on a regular basis. But now the task is daunting. Have I updated it on MySpace? Flickr? Facebook? Twitter? Technorati? WordPress? And which am I forgetting?

What if I could have my own PERSONAL site that connected to all of the other networking sites that I choose to participate in? I update my primary photo ONCE, and my personal site automatically updates it for me in every network that I am a member of. That would be amazing! Same thing goes for my “About Me” text. If I update that on my “personal information” site, it is updated for me on MySpace, Flickr, Facebook, Technorati, your blog, Twitter, and any others. The next step is to have lists of friends and family and have them synced across all sites.

In doing research for this blog entry, I discovered that there is a web site that seeks to perform this task in the works, ProfileLinker. It is currently in beta. We’ll see if it gains in popularity and functionality.

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One Response to “The future of social networks”

  1. Jeffry Pilcher Says:

    Nice job blogging about Twitter two years ago 🙂 Heck, the service was barely a year old at that point.

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