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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Social networking - a lock-in strategy?

Keeping users locked in a specific social community is a dominant strategy. The opposite would be open networks where people could easily move between networks.

Should social networks be more open? Do traditional users (like me) care enough that our data is controlled by the social communities, like Facebook, MySpace and a Small World (Speaker SIME06)? For those of you who feel locked-in, and who want to take your identity wherever you like, Tariq Krim of Netvibes (Speaker SIME06) is offering a new Facebook Widget. It allows users to access their Facebook info on Netvibes (open system).

Is this discussion important? Mark Canter of PeopleAggregator argues that "History will prove that by freeing the end-user’s data, a distributed mesh of inter-connecting social networks and blogging platforms will create an ecosystem in which ALL software vendors and plaforms can participate in - equally". Read Mark's excellent blog entry: "The Chess game of social networking".

What do you think?

(Thanks to Jockum Hultén, Snowball Captial for the theme).


Richard Gatarski said...

In my view the issue goes beyond "identity", which is more than the fields filed under a profile. All content/connections tied to a (digital)person contribute to that identity/brand. A "life stream" is as much an identity former as is "work place".

When the WWW appeared I was not alone in explaining that one of the reasons for the Web's popularity was its openness. That is, earlier graphical online networks (e.g. Compuserve, Prodigy and AOL) were built as walled gardens. Furthermore, they were based on proprietary tools (i.e. not open APIs). Soon enough those networks faded and the Web won. So far.

Time will tell, but I ideologically believe in more open systems (make it possible to let members decide to, and easily implement, sharing to outsiders). Furthermore, a business model based on lock-in will turn obsolete when flocks of its members move somewhere else. At least when it comes to mass social networks, smaller ones (clubs), is another thing.

Compare the "end of page ranks", were RSS feeds, widgets, and more turns out to be the more user friendly way to prosume content than interacting with a growing number of web sites. In a similar fashion social networks that offer similar functionality will win over those forcing its members to step inside the wall each time to access the network.

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