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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Bookmarking with Furl

I just started using a new bookmarking tool called Furl that is a compliment to Del.icio.us.

It is located at www.furl.net

Many of you might be familiar with it and see the “F” icon in some blog badges.

It’s quite versatile and useful, although it’s not perfect. I see a lot of possibilities for this kind of tool. (How do YOU use Furl?)

Basically, Furl allows you to create an online archive of Web pages that you want to save for future reference. Yes, in most cases you’re actually saving the Web page to a new location – so if it gets relocated, revised, or removed later, you have a copy of the original version for future reference.

You can sort your furled items into topic-based folders. And (this is the cool part) share selected parts of your Furl archive with others via a syndicated list on your own Web site, hyperlink to Furl, webfeed (RSS), or daily e-mail alert.

Yes, you can also keep your archive private. Yes, you can provide group access to a Furl account. (That’s a bit of a hack, but it can be done.) Yes, you can comment on individual items. I’m not going to spend time here explaining the details of the service; if you’re interested read Furl’s FAQ.

Here’s a quick description of how I’m using Furl, and a list of 10 cool things you can do with Furl

(MORE: I’ve added these Furl articles: More Furl Tricks, One More Furl Trick: Pre-Blogging, About Furl, File Sharing, and Copyright, and Furl Tricks: Save Exactly and All of What You Want)

Social Networking Trends: Social Travel

Social travel is a new movement in the travel sector that is taking advantage of the Web 2.0 concept.

Just in case you’re not familiar with Web 2.0, the first round of web technologies, Web 1.0, was mostly read-only, while Web 2.0 is enabled for massive read-write capabilities. Two things make this possible: rich web technologies and social computing tools. Rich web technologies consist of things like Ajax, RSS, and Ruby on Rails, while social computing tools are primarily social networks, search, wikis, blogs, and tagging. The “Web 2.0 goal”: creating new paradigms in how software is used by consumers and companies. For the travel industry, Social Travel is that very thing.

Over the past decade, travel software has evolved as an extension of existing travel channels, by web-enabling the travel buying experience. At first this was hailed as a revolution because you didn’t have to rely on an airline customer service operator or travel agent to find you the best deal. You, the customer became in control, and didn’t have to submit to the mercy of the airline-owned Global Distribution System (GDS) products that were based on old mainframe technology.

With the advent of the web, travel sites popped up and pricing started to become more transparent, enabling the building of three types of business models. First, there were traditional sites (like Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz), which were extensions of their big brother GDS platforms. Then came reverse auctions (such as Priceline), which let you communicate how much you would be willing to pay. And finally, to squeeze out that last dollar, remnant sites (like HotWire and CheapTickets) that took all the extra inventory to market and delivered dollars that would otherwise never have been spent. The main thing wasn’t how good or bad these travel sites might have been in terms of inventory or design. The crucial thing they did was to empower the consumer with choice.

However, choice wasn’t enough. Incremental innovations including predictive pricing (like Farecast), multi-site search (Mobissimo, for example), and mobile communications (such as Kayak Mobile) helped sites evolve—but something was still truly missing. It was the community and communication between travelers.

Today, the online travel sector is undergoing a revolution. Or more accurately, a convergence between travel sites and social computing that is creating this new category of social travel. The overall goals of social travel sites are to enable community and communication between people who might travel together, share travel destination interests, and look for better information on destinations and service providers.

In the end, this is still about selling travel services—airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and cruises—but social travel opens up all kinds of new selling opportunities, such as:

1: Group Travel. This lets you include all your friends and family in groups, to coordinate travel for events and vacations. For consumers, it means group buying power, and for travel service providers, it means more revenue as there is less hassle in the buying process.

2: Accurate Destination Marketing. This is not just knowing where people have gone in the past; it is about knowing where they like and want to go—making the marketing process more effective.

Right now, several sites in this space are taking various approaches in the social travel space. The primary ones out there are Groople, TravelPost, TripHub, TripConnect, and 43places.

Coming up next: VentureFiles will review some of the companies we mentioned in more depth, taking a look at what makes them compelling and what could break them out of their current “early-adopter only” phase.