Social Networking 4.0 – Meta Social Networks

Social Networking has gone through three phases so far and I firmly believe that we are at the beginning of the fourth phase.

I refer to these first three phrases from Dave Hornik’s seminal blog entry “Social Networks 3.0” written in December 2005. I accept his interpretation of the first three phrases as follows:

Social Networks 1.0 - Group communications (i.e., AIM, ICQ, eGroup)
Social Networks 2.0 - Basic and Broad Social Networks (i.e. Friendster, LinkedIn)
Social Networks 3.0 - Experience based and more niche focused

Unfortunately, this has left us with a multitude of social networks that just make the noise much louder and they will surely fail because the are selling to the echo chamber and not doing something innovative.

So where does that lead us?

With Om Malik’s post “Are Social Networks Just a Feature?” it got me thinking as to how things are starting to froth to the point where they either need to converge, consolidate, commit suicide or connect. Marc Canter is one person that has it right and has put the tools in place to enable your personal social network or define a niche one with a white label solution. Now this could contribute to the noise, but on the other hand it could allow people to be in one place and aggregate their social network memberships and relationships.

With the recent press coverage of social networks finding new growth with APIs there is the beginning of a ground shift that over the next 18 months will lead to Social Networking 4.0.

So what is Social Networking 4.0?
Social Networking 4.0 is what I call Meta Social Networks. Om is right that tools that build this as a feature will exist but I don’t think many have the desire or sufficient motivation to build a MySpace. I believe that this will lead to increasing the value of intranet systems and back a few years ago when “portals” was the big buzzword, we used to call this concept “Enterprise Expertise Portals”.

The extension of these API’s will allow not only wicked cool Mashups (that is for a later post) it will allow some smart enterpreneur (HINT: FREE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY HERE) to create an identity portal that allows you to manage your profiles on each network and all the details, yet respecting the dotted lines – FOR EXAMPLE: keeping your Goth Emo profile on MySpace separate from your professional business resume on LinkedIn is a necessary thing. Unless you wanted to let your business colleague know about your penchant for black and finding everything so depressing. Then again, they might already have a clue….

So eventually your “Identity Portal” could use various plugins and mashup API’s to take the social networking sites to another level.

This actually leads us full circle to Om Malik’s post of social networks becoming a feature. But in my opinion they would be called foundation and not just a feature.

Still, there are some challenges to overcome:

  • Multiple Identities – This could be overcome with an identity portal but standards like OpenID could help move this along.
  • Social Network API standard – It is good some are opening up. But there should be some standardization of basic profile data so it is easier to work with when connecting to profiles.

I look forward to hearing the communities thoughts on this and if it might work, what other challenges and what “Identity Portal” you might build.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

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