The pitfalls and future of social networking

An  article in The Economist highlights the pitfalls of social networking platforms and technologies today and their possible evolution in the future.

“We will look back to 2008 and think it archaic and quaint that we had to go to a destination like Facebook or LinkedIn to be social,” says Charlene Li at Forrester Research, a consultancy. Future social networks, she thinks, “will be like air. They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be.” No more logging on to Facebook just to see the “news feed” of updates from your friends; instead it will come straight to your e-mail inbox, RSS reader or instant messenger. No need to upload photos to Facebook to show them to friends, since those with privacy permissions in your electronic address book can automatically get them.

The problem with today’s social networks is that they are often closed to the outside web. The big networks have decided to be “open” toward independent programmers, to encourage them to write fun new software for them. But they are reluctant to become equally open towards their users, because the networks’ lofty valuations depend on maximising their page views—so they maintain a tight grip on their users’ information, to ensure that they keep coming back. As a result, avid internet users often maintain separate accounts on several social networks, instant-messaging services, photo-sharing and blogging sites, and usually cannot even send simple messages from one to the other. They must invite the same friends to each service separately. It is a drag.

Dataportability seems to be a key initiative in addressing the information silos of social networks as they stand today noted above. See their fascinating video here or from below.

One thought on “The pitfalls and future of social networking

  1. Great catch -I am glad the broader crowd is getting heads up about this. Rather than an issue of social networking itself, or a technical challenge, it is an issue with the incentives that the owners of these sites have to face every day.

    The moment that the social graph and other similar information is portable, these sites will have to work harder to avoid being a interchangeable commodity; differentiating from each other on experience, privacy, etc.

    I would also be alert of a transition period where social information portability technologies bloom – imagine a tide of press releases: “we support {standard du jour}!” but the terms of service of the worthwile implementors don’t allow you to consume the information quite in the way you would have hoped.

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