Monday, 19 May 2008

THE NEXT BATTLE IN THE SOCIAL NETWORKING WAR

In a previous posting on The Transition In Social Networking Sites, I suggested that community elements will get embedded into some of our everyday applications such as email, calendar, and address functionality, search engines, and portals. I said I expect social networking to become a feature of other services, rather than a destination in itself as it is now.

Over the last week or two, MySpace, Google, and Facebook have all announced services that will allow people to connect and share with friends right across the web, not just on their own sites. This turns the whole web into a social networking space. This is good news for Google, but a defensive move by Facebook and MySpace. Facebook prospered behind it's walled garden forcing people to migrate or re-register friends from other platforms, and initially resisted data portability.



Google's launch of Friend Connect looks particularly dangerous for Facebook. It looks like it's targeting the blogosphere as shown in the video. This is the type of long tail strategy that Google excels at, but the real challenge for Google is that it has never really been a 'members' organisation. With the exception of Yahoo, historically focussed search firms just didn't get members, they got eyeballs. Yahoo managed to get members through its content, and Google has had some success with gmail, but there are not that many people who have Google IDs. Both Facebook and MySpace have this advantage of being successful member strategy executors. They have a head start.

However, if Google - a rag tag of disassociated services - search, Maps, Google Docs, gmail, etc - can integrate these features into a more singular service and give the mainstream surfer more reasons to register with Friend Connect and actually see it as their social network - then it promises to be dangerous for both MySpace and Facebook.

But perhaps the most interesting evolution here is how this all brings the semantic web or Giant Global Graph one step closer. This means that in addition to analyzing and categorizing the relationship between documents on the web, Google will now be able to start analyzing and categorizing the relationship between people on the web. Google will be able to calculate the closeness of networks, the size of them, the role of different individuals, and the clustering coefficients and then overlay that with PageRank document data to target us with advertising.

Data portability was intended to be 'freedom giving' but in this scenario it becomes a privacy advocate's nightmare, but a marketers dream.

2 comments:

Saul said...

Last week, Facebook blocked Google's Friend Connect because of the privacy issues you've alluded to Mr Effik. The reason given apparently was because Friend Connect redistributes users' personal information from Facebook to other developers without their knowledge. However, if you look more closely, you'll realise that the amount of info passed to third parties is minimal -- and I'm sure Facebook knew this. Zuckerberg's social network (like MySpace) is simply worried that its walled garden is about to be dismantled. This is clearly shortsighted, seeing that the growth (and success) of the internet rests on the ease with which users can find and link to information...

Tony Effik said...

I agree with you Saul... does anyone remember CompuServe, or even embattled AOL with their Walled Gardens?

A philospohy I once heard which makes sense to me is: if you believe your business can be dismantled by another product, then create that product and dismantle it yourself, before someone else does. That way you keep the revenue. Facebook should be signing up affiliates to work with it and offer them social features that work with Facebook, but work outside of it.