The Future of Social Networks

I just read two competing views that are actually very similar.

First the wonderful Charlene Li from Forrester blogged that social networks will be like air in the future. She actually has a few slides available from a recent talk. In short, she believes that in 8 to 10 years you will look back to Facebook or LinkedIn and wonder what people where doing there because in the end, everything will be social.

The general idea is that the Open Social Graph is really something that we need and that the big players will be working on together because having one social graph is really to the benefit of everyone. It’s really what Noserub, which one of our devs Dirk has initiated, is all about. This means that in the end the social networks that are just there to be a social network, will die. I am already filling all my social networks with my GMail address book (not inviting people just syncing and seeing how is there) and this really means that my GMail address book is my social network.

At the same time Cringely wrote his latest piece called Antisocial. He argues that it is getting too much and boy do I agree. I can’t join the 50th group or add the 75th application or check who bit whom or what who rated. He really believes that there is just not enough value in all of them. The next big thing will come along faster than you think.

It ties in wonderfully with something I think John Battelle said recently, that these sites have to start competing on features and not on data. Because in the end, Cringely is right, and Charlene is too. Most of them that are just social networks will die, because there is no reason to have them if you have a social graph underlying your life. This is really why we have built Ormigo over a social network. We are no social network as such because that is not where the value comes from, but we are a local market place and local market places of the future will have to be built on social networks, because local is inherently social.

Our value does not directly come from the social network but rather it is one of many features. The value comes from giving you the best local merchants to solve your current problem. Social connections, analysis of the life stream of user and merchant, and so on, in the long run, will be important to do this correctly. Interesting times ahead.

Update: And yes, that means that there will be lots of features, systems, sites out there that will just use social components. This is exactly what Facebook is about. Just read this from Zuckerberg:

Beacon isn’t even a part of our ad team. It’s part of our platform team. We think these large social networking sites are going from large monolithic sites like facebook.com … to social services. A lot of them aren’t even things we’re building. Some of them are going to be inside facebook.com. An increasing amount of that is going to be outside facebook.com. What we were trying to do with Beacon was taking the first step with letting people take actions on other parts of the Web and feed back into what their friends are doing. It also ties into the ad system, because it can be an endorsement — someone you care about is doing something, that’s much more effective.

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5 thoughts on “The Future of Social Networks

  1. Allan Young's Incoherence March 10, 2008 at 02:43 Reply

    Latticework Linkfest 3/9/08…MacroOnce again, Mark Zandi and his team at Moody’s Economy.com (MCO) comes through with something interesting. Click through on the image below and interact with the map to find out if your state and county is in risk of recession. My home s…

  2. Allan March 10, 2008 at 03:37 Reply

    Can’t features also be duplicated across platforms?

  3. charlie March 10, 2008 at 06:19 Reply

    Yup. I’ve been trying to convince folks that it’s not the social network in and of itself that is interesting, but what you do with it. Hence, like you’ve discovered, there is no shame in appropriating a social network and deploying your service on top of that.Yes, FB is working hard to go from social network to social network platform. But, I think they are more like AOL or Compuserve, a bit of a walled garden.This year and next, expect to see folks building these overlays on existing social networks, building social network aggregators and then pivoting a service on top of that.Or at least, that’s what I have been expecting for a few years now.Tchau

  4. Oliver March 10, 2008 at 06:53 Reply

    Allan, yes sure, things can be duplicated, but a very few will really handle the social part of the application and you can build your app on top of it. 100 apps that are the same do not make sense then.And Charlie, yep, I think it is coming. I am really thinking more and more that a VISA type model for social networking as well as ads really makes sense.

  5. TaoSpace March 10, 2008 at 08:24 Reply

    Cafe standards…Oliver’s latest post touched on something I’ve been thinking about for a while: Social networks competing on features and a portable social graph. The way I’ve been thinking about it is a bit more conceptual though. My point is this:…

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