Future of Social Networking

In earlier entries I have commented that my vision of the next generation is an ocean of smaller communities administered and focused on a single theme unified by a single sign-on forming a mesh. Current sites like Facebook, MySpace and Youtube are too general to be meaningful. The addition of user groups to these sites has helped to narrow the sheer mass of content to a manageable level and Yahoo! is the best example of this.

I have to say that I no longer believe in an ocean of interlinked community nodes. The utopia behind this future is that we would all have a single sign-on and communal identity. There will always be a number of sites competing for users making cross platform linking difficult and superficial.

I still believe in lakes of community nodes with single sign-on within the lake. This to an extent is Yahoo! Groups, but with intelligence an anticipation by the platform. You can already customize your Yahoo! Dashboard, but this is still manual and static. In the future customization will be automated by your every action within the community. Every relationship you forge, every group you associate with, every discussion you contribute to in a forum, etc. This is social network analytics with automated responses.

A community is a living organism that changes and evolves constantly through user participation. Communal participation is social and it is that social interaction that causes "stickiness"… user retention. We all have motivations that drive us to a social web community. For some it may be voyeurism and for others it might be the need for self promotion and social acceptance. These are often needs that are not being fulfilled in physical interactions in the real society versus the virtual society.

When you are thinking of building a new community think of who your audience is and what social needs you are fulfilling. Those of you that are developing web community platforms, please focus on platform intelligence and allow you framework to evolve with community needs.

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