Commentary: What’s Next in Social Networking?

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Editor’s Note: Don’t think I need to define ‘Commentary,’ but every once in a while Rev2 writers have something to get off their chest which involves several personal references and opinion, so I figured they’d be better off with some amount of separation in the title (and yes, I did use 3 I’s in this sentence. Wait, that’s 4. 😉 )

Recently, social networking has turned into Pownce, Twitter, and Facebook for me. A few months ago, it would have been something different, like Bebo and MySpace. Before that, it would have been Orkut and Friendster. It’s apparent — the landscape keeps changing. So, what’s next?

I think there’s definitely a clear line to define between where the Silicon Valley crowd tends to hang out at (and followers, such as myself from around the world), and where ‘the rest’ hang out. Yes, it’s true, we’re usually the first ones to try out new things. That’s not surprising, of course, since we make them. It’s also true that the rest of the world usually follows our lead — or at least, they have with the past couple trends. All this leaves me to wonder one thing where we’ll turn to next — and where the rest of the world will follow to (or even if they’ll follow at all).

Certainly, looking at where things have been headed, Facebook has been the most recent culprit of a network effect. What’s interesting, of course, is that unlike MySpace, Orkut and Friendster which have peaked enormously in the past, Facebook had its start from the ground up, in a closed system, and with a niche and specialized demographic — that is, college students. Blame it on the broad vision of Mark Zuckerberg or the overall trend in Facebook getting popular and popular with its peeps, they’ve clearly expanded outward, and still have a long way to go — if their acquisition of Parakey points anywhere.

For some people, social networking is soon-to-be a replacement for e-mail. And when you come to think of it, it makes perfect sense. E-mail has one simple goal: to get your message across to anyone in the world, in any given place with access to the Internet, at any given time, in a matter of seconds. Whether it’s used to run a business or write a letter to your grandmother is solely dependant on the user, but the main point of e-mail is to connect people. If we look at social networking, on the other hand, it’s obvious — we’re talking about something with the same goal, and arguably with a hundred times better purpose to fit that goal.

So, this brings me to my main point. What’s next? Having lived through trends in the past, I’d have to think it’d be something big, something broad, something world-changing (hint: not another social network), and something completely different to what we’ve ever seen. As much as we’d like to see social networks replace e-mail, the main reason e-mail has worked is because, let’s admit it, it’s a worldwide standard. There’s no one player, and there’s no one domain everyone who uses the technology has to visit a hundred times a day. It’s broad, and it’s natural. So why not this for social networking, which basically exists to fulfill the idea of connecting people but so far as we know it is one of the most closed, proprietary things in the world? I’m sure Zuckerberg’s working on it.


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