Predictions are challenging. They’re also fun, especially when they turn out to be accurate.
To imagine and consider what might be is for many, the ultimate in speculation: the what-if question we can answer, and an addictive potion of for the unquenchable thirst for learning, for adaptation.
At the risk of appearing to be sucking up to AdAge (this is my third post on one of the pub’s articles this month), I’d like to tackle a visionary opinion piece Freddie Laker wrote recently. There are 11 predictions, which are otherwise forward-looking and insightful, yet this is one I’ll specifically address:
“Complete decentralization of social networks: The concept of a friend network will be a portable experience. You’ll find most digital experiences will be able to leverage the power of your social networks in a way that leverages your readily available personal information and the relationships you’ve established. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this with Facebook Connect and Google’s FriendConnect.”
First, in an Aristotelian sense, it’s a universal conclusion, based on a specific predicate. Invalid. This is a bit geeky, but if I suck up to anything, it’s a good syllogism. Consider the same argument this way:
- Facebook Connect and FriendConnect provide a portable network experience.
- This means you can leverage your existing relationships in new social networks.
- Therefore, social networks will be completely decentralized.
The value of what is in essence single-sign-on, like Facebook Connect, is based on integration, centralization and human connectivity. This is the beginning stage of consolidation.
Sometimes it works, like Ping.fm, then morphs or is replaced, as the market responds: think of using your Twitter account to sign into Gist. Sometimes they don’t work: remember Microsoft’s Passport?
This takes me back to Chris Anderson’s remark that “Abundant information wants to be free. Scarce information wants to be expensive.”
Lots of information is free and it’s also disparate, but we’ll pay for centralized views, consolidated information that can be molded into something sensible and actionable, like intelligence. Likewise, there’s a lot of social networks – the utility of these social networks tomorrow will be in how they live together or die separately.
Social networking relationships are included, instead of Facebook merely suggesting you connect with a long lost high school friend, it will tell you that you should connect with, John Doe on LinkedIn, who is also your physical neighbor (or perhaps your FourSquare mayor) and works with an influencer you want to meet.
Brian Solis talks about this often – the human network. Thomas Mendel, an IT analyst with Forrester, might say it’s the “humanization” of technology – a term I heard him use long before it became popular with social media pundits.
Both are right, because social media is about people. It’s about an “understanding of how work really gets done in organizations,” as the subtitle to a 2004 book (surprise, it was written before Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn existed), titled, “The Hidden Power of Social Networks.”
Centralization is human – we gravitate towards the campfire or perhaps a water cooler – and human is the future.
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