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Social networks and the new year

I just came across this fine piece at CIO.com. It gives an analyst’s opinion on the relevant trends in that space for 2008. More specifically, it talks about the business model and the «technology» for Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.

While I broadly agree with the comments (Facebook needs to consolidate its game, MySpace needs an «extreme makeover», LinkedIn’s persistence of vision could pay off) it’s hard not to wonder why the analyst confuses social networks with professional networks, and thus misses the difference it makes for their business models and their technology adoption. The reason those three social networking sites thrive is because they’re substantially different in target, user base, user behaviours… and ultimately, business models. Indeed the only one without a clear model is FaceBook; MySpace published a beautiful promo-paper on theirs last year, and LinkedIn hasn’t budged from its course for a long time.

But the worst part of the article is probably that it ignores two large trends: vertical networks and private networks. The first is exemplified by Xing, which offers dozens of different flavours and customised networks within the same infrastructure. And the second is growing more and more in demand: large companies want to leverage the business part of social networking technology within their intranets.

A network’s value for its user depends on its size. Too small, and it really adds nothing to your own set of acquaintaces and friends. Too large and you’re pestered by people you don’t know or care about. I don’t turn down many people on LinkedIn; I’m thinking of deleting my Facebook profile because of unwanted contacts.

The odds that people will seek a better mix of privacy and networking than is currently on offer are great, as is the tendency to build a «single profile» that can be plugged into different networks and managed once, with network-specific appendixes and cross-network relationships. Vertical networks and open standards are maturing. None of those trends are addressed in the article… and I’ll bet they will be prominent in 2008.


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