Rethinking social networking in 2008

Spooky – I was just collating some thought about social networking then Anne Zelenka posts half of my thought process. The power of the meme or proof of a higher power? Most likely just coincidence but anyway, it prompted me to throw down my thoughts before they get blogged into the past. So, here’s my uncorroborated opinions and unfounded predictions for 2008:

– There will be consolidation of the social networking market. I just received a Xing email, and several Spock and Plaxo Pulse invites arrived today. The fight in the corporate space is with LinkedIn, and there can be only one. The same goes for personal social networking.

– Twitter will “vanish.” I don’t believe Twitter will exist in the same form a year from now. Most likely scenario: the company will be bought and integrated into a larger offering; alternatively it will become a messaging backbone for other services. Despite the highly vocal tweets of a few twitterati, most of the world don’t work that way, or that fast.

– Facebook will lose to the next generation. Lets face it, Facebook was fun for a while, but is there really anything keeping us there? Facebook is all face and no heart, or soul – an integation platform to be written to. When something more interesting turns up, Facebook’s fickle “customers” will walk.

– The real winners will be the leaves and the trunks. A few social networking sites will become the “trunks” – consolidation hubs that enable integration between sites. A few others will specialise in “leaves” – offering customer-specific tools that suit the needs of their subscribers. I expect Microsoft to be a leaf player, not a trunk player, for example. Google will be a trunk player.

That’ll do – now taking beer-oriented bets for whether or not the above will prove true a year from now.

Rethinking social networking in 2008

2 thoughts on “Rethinking social networking in 2008

  1. Hi Jon,

    We are actively researching and developing some projects in the social networking space, and your thoughts are interesting.

    – For corporate social networking I agree that LinkedIn is dominant, even in Europe where Xing is conversationally preferred, (primarily because its European, and Europeans tend to act in that manner), I have seen that Europeans on Xing are also joining LinkedIn – I can only summise that its because LinkedIn is more effective. Spock is weak. But I was presently surprised to see Plaxo Pulse. It is quite adherring, and whereas I previously thought LinkedIn would remain dominant, Plaxo makes me believe that there can be disruption in this space, or at least there is another category of casual business contacts that can be exploited (as this blog sharing feaure shows) to become something richer, and thus compete effectively with LinkedIn.

    – The first time I heard of Twitter was in MIT’s Technology Review, and then I saw you using it via Plaxo Pulse. It reminds me of Facebook’s status update. Its nice to keep a record of what you are doing, where you are etc. I am not familiar with Twitter, but as an objective observer, I think your analysis is correct. Although something interesting could happen, like rapid viral mobile user adoption, and a corporate group system, linked with something like a corporate IM chat. This can be interesting for some groups within a company.

    – Facebook. I was invited several times to Facebook but did not join. I thought I’d never be a fan of social network systems of this type, totally skipped MySpace, and believed I would not be foolish enough to join a Social Network and share something personal. Then my family joined, then some of my work colleagues joined, inviting me as a friend, and then some social organisations I belong to created groups within FaceBook, inviting us to join… Then we started to examine SocialNetwork projects and integration of our products with such sites, and I joined Facebook. Having joined – I get pictures of myself that I didn’t take, my life is recorded by friends, acquaintances and family. Invitations to the weekly Geneva parties that I am such a fan of now come primarily through Facebook, I wish I could organise my entire social event calendar there or synchronise it with Outlook, it would make time planning more effective. I have been looking for a tool to store notes that I can refer to from anywhere, book reviews etc. I found some of what I need in Facebook. Even my regular SmallWorld friends now all primarily communicate through Facebook. SmallWorld is only really used for private messages and discrete introductions to new people – where it still excels because of its design for privacy. Facebook’s privacy agreement is very scary, and I am revising how I coninue to use it… I agree that something can replace it in the future, but they’ve got to do a Very good job…

    – I’d be interested if you can explain how Google will be a trunk player? Aside from their Blog consolidation, and YouTube, what prime properties do they own in the real social nework realm? Is search their great trunk consolidator?

    Cheers, Kevin

  2. Thanks Kevin! On the Google thing, perhaps a better comparison would be between specialists and generalists. While Google may support more specialist communities, its model is more around providing a general hub, as an aggregator. Compare this for example to Bebo which is a pre-teen and teen social network, i.e. a leaf player; LinkedIn is also a leaf. While Microsoft would love to be a hub, the love/hate relationship many have with the company may push it more in the direction of leaf. Its quite interesting to look at its purchase of Facebook stock – and the subsequent commentary – in this light.

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