Social Networks and the future

Aug 21, 2011


I live abroad, disconnected from friends, ex co-workers and family so I try to use social tools to stay in touch. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and every other web 2.0 webpage on the Internet - you can be social everywhere. Now, the problem is simply to pick the right services and try to inform your friends. What is missing, is a way to be social with your contacts and not just with the company supplying this specific social service. We can split social networks into two groups:

  • Contact networks (such as: Twitter, Facebook, Google+) Focused on users and user interaction, content services (such as photos) are secondary.* Content networks (smaller sites, but also sites like StackExchange, Picasa, Flickr, etc, Quora). Focused on rich content, user interaction is secondary. Content networks may also have rich, specialized content such as questions.

The problem with the current social landscape is that content networks are building basic user interaction into their sites, and that contact networks are building basic content services into their sites. We, the user is left in the dark, speculating on what services he should use to write his new exciting social content. It is unacceptable for social users that they have to browse multiple networks in search content and maintain multiple contact lists. It is unacceptable for content networks, that they have to reinvent the (social) wheel for every site. Every social network is so occupied with maintaining total control of the data (your data, mind you) that co-operation never came into play. These multi-billion dollar companies do not create any content. We, the users do. We deserve better! We deserve:

  • Freedom to manage our contacts, relationships (be it friend or follower) and be able to move between providers.
  • Privacy for our relationships and our content and as citizens of different countries, we deserve to know who can access our data.
  • Full separation of contact networks and content networks. This ensures that no single authority has access to all your data - it also ensures that the best services (not just the largest) can compete.
  • Open Protocols for both content and contact providers and the freedom to choose.

Please note that I am not claiming that large providers shouldn’t exist or that social sites shouldn’t make money off of advertising or even targeted advertising. All I am trying to get through, is that we can work together and that user-driven networks are being designed, for the users. For competition to work within the social space, it is imperative that we split up the contact networks, from the content networks, at least technically. The Internet was founded with open protocols. Without open protocols we wouldn’t have email or web pages. Unfortunately, in recent years the evolution has been that large corporate entities have been designing online services, so that competition is impossible and to keep your data in one place. We need open social protocols, now!