Tim O’Reilly writes a good analysis about the announcement of MySpace and Skype that these will integrate MySpace IM and Skype Voice capabilities. Tim predicts that Social Networks will turn into smart address books, that a social network operating system will require interoperability between many applications people connect through and that many niches will appear from all of this. Read his article to get the details.
I like this analysis. Why? Because I believe that social networking isn’t about the network. It should be about the interaction between people. So adding voice capabilities will help support this interaction. But honestly, I don’t think it will be the main driver for change. Earlier I wrote about my 10 wishes to change web 2.0 and move into an era of interaction.
I believe that the first thing that needs to be done is a change of attitude by the service creators. As long as they feel that their way to create value is to protect the value of the network that the users create, things will not change. It is what Tim calls the social operating system. Google has the best cards in hands to accomplish that, with Search, Orkut, Jaiku, the Gphone, rss feeds, the buildup of user base in Asia (where payed mobile services actually work). But a bit of competition here would be welcome. Facebook won’t last, as their monetizing method forces them to use walled gardens and increased ad pressure on its users. This may be a bold prediction, as some think they are worth $15Bln nowadays. But, as with many of such services, in the end, the user will move away because the value he gets from the network is much less than the value he puts into the network.
Voice will be a nice add on, but it won’t be the main driver for interaction. Looking at the behavior of users they spend most of their time using e-mail, SMS, IM. Voice comes way behind that.
So what will do the trick? I think it is our need to formulate questions and search for answers! The true value of having a network of friends around you is you can leverage that network while searching for your needs. Search can be looked at in many ways:
- The “What is the capital of the United States” question , use Google or any other search engine to do that
- The “What is a good place to go to on holiday” question. There are two convenient ways of answering that question. First, exploration thought all the different holiday sites. Second, referral from people you trust, a friend providing you with he advice of a possible destination or site to look at.
- The “Can anyone explain to me what Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation is about” question. Well, you could go to Wikipedia and read the information there, but a very good alternative is to see if anyone you know can explain it to you in words you can understand
- The “What are you doing now” question. This is always related to someone you know. Twitter like functionality or SMS will serve you right here.
- The “I didn’t know I had that question”question. A surprise! Where did that come from? Not from search engines, more likely from a friend pointing something to your attention
- The “I need an urgent answer now” question. Here a search engine might do the trick, but more likely an urgent call, SMS, or IM to a friend might work better.
- The “I want to be entertained”question. Exploration, or simply sitting back and viewing what is happening to your friends or the world work best here. But honestly, t me, nothing will work better than to hang out in the physical world with people I like. No on-line experience can match that.
I could probably increase this list with more examples, but you catch my drift. There is a lot of discussion whether or not opening the social graphs of people will do the trick. Well, it will certainly help! The search for interaction is what will truly alter the way we think about social networks. Read my 10 wishes to improve web 2.0 and get a much better interaction if you want to know more about that.