The next social networking wave will be circular

In August 2011, I posted an article on how the future of social network was to let users have circles of friends. Now, we hear increasingly that with Facebook is losing its charm on the young. What initially started as chat and profile pages for college kids, inevitably opened further and further until everybody’s grandmother is on Facebook. I can only imagine that having grandma stare in shock at their granddaughter’s drunken college tweaking has inspired sudden interest in privacy. Maybe everyone doesn’t need to see the latest pictures of your cat with that neat ball of yarn. Not everyone might be interested in articles like this.

Google+, the ugly step child of social networking, hardly being noticed by most, is already in the right place for this. It’s just that their image of “do no evil” has been sorely tarnished and their app connectivity is very limited. Facebook already has this with Friend Lists, but Facebook’s own shifting privacy concerns have worried users of the premier social networking service. Twitter only alternately offers complete privacy since it’s now really meant for broadcasting alerts to the world about your latest Tiananmen Square or Tahrir Square incident; all or nothing. Since going public, all of these services have really only changed gears in the direction investors would most like to see. That direction may not be in our own best interest.

One concern I have is that the media is burying Facebook while it stand perfectly healthy on both feet. Maybe Facebook has reached a point where people are bored with the current means of sharing, but maybe that’s really a problem with the content and not the method of transmission. I’m perfectly comfortable with today’s social networking, but maybe that’s wrong too. I’m also seeing that Twitter, with its all or nothing approach, is not getting painted with this brush. I’m not 100% convinced there’s a problem that requires anyone to abandon ship.

At what point do we get social network fatigue from adding new social networks? We already have peripheral social networks that ride on Facebook authentication like Classmates.com and SchoolFeed.com. All current apps offer once form or another of sharing to Facebook and/or Twitter, like this article. We’re kind of married to our existing social networks, so why yet another? Everyone loves keeping up with friends, but at some point you get tired of settings up preferences and interests and profiles in a whole new app. How many different inboxes do we need to pay attention to, and how many new information streams do we need to have distracting us? Many of us can barely keep up with everything happening in the social networks that we already have. Networks like Path found this out, when they tried to be another network that tried to be a subset of only true friends, to follow Dunbar’s number. Why more?

I feel another major social network will still need to latch onto Facebook and Twitter, whig are the backbone of the Internet. Another major social network could mean the current social networks losing subscribers and then increasingly poor service. These social networks rely on eyeballs on advertising banners, and the less eyeballs we have the more site errors you will see and the less new features we will see. Another social network could also mean the evolution of social networking since publicly traded companies are less likely to take the risky leaps that made social networking so great in the first place. Another social network could mean we see newer, shinier features. A newer social network could mean a smaller, more intimate, environment for friends to interact. Another could mean greater freedom in sharing, or greater privacy to secure our social interactions. The new social networks involve chatting or other short impermanent changes that leave you nothing to look back at, but how many times do we look back at our old social networking activity? We may finally get the social circles that people really need. I don’t know what it would look like or what we would share differently, but I look forward to this evolution.

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