The Next Frontiers For Social Networking

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The Next Frontiers For Social Networking

Back in 2007, after watching Mark Zuckerberg on stage at Facebook Platform announcement, one thing became clear to many; this appearance would one day be remembered as historic as the 1983 Apple Keynote of Young Steve Jobs. Flash forward today, Facebook is a 200 billion dollar behemoth.
But the game is still on, and social networking landscape keeps changing quickly. Twitter is back in the game with Jack Dorsey at the helm. Facebook is no Myspace.  It’s on top of its game and is fast at adapting to those changes with its quick pivots (e.g native mobile apps) and multi billion dollar acquisitions such as instagram and Whatsapp, not to mention futuristic bets such as Oculus VR. But there’s more happening and more to come.
Below is a list of things to happen in the social networking world, starting with the most obvious and moving to the most utopian ones.
Social image: Peshkova
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1. Videos, a better way to tell stories

For a social network to reflect your true personality, it has to be more than a place to dump news pieces or daily rants. It has to be personal, contemporary and genuine. Photos and videos are great media that reflect your true self. A picture is in fact worth a thousand words. What’s great about Snapchat, the uncontested leader of the video category, is that it’s undeniably a superior way to express stories. Teenagers love it, and soon adults will follow as well. Facebook takes this new battleground seriously too; profile pictures as looping videos is one example.

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2. Real-Time Out, Temporary In

Just like real-time was once the biggest theme of the social networking world, which was introduced by Twitter and then copied by Facebook, temporary is today’s new big theme.  This time it was introduced by Snapchat. If 17 year olds are of any indication to the future of social networking, people no longer want their posts to appear online permanently. This is the catalyst for time-limited posts, and they are gaining importance.
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3. The Future of Social Networking will be contextual

When Google came up with its own Google+, the idea was to kill Facebook with Circles — a fancy name for context. It didn’t work for a lot of reasons, but mainly because creating a new social graph from scratch is no easy feat, even for Google. But the importance of context is real. People have been shifting towards instagram and whatsapp because for many, Facebook is no longer a place for close friends. LinkedIn has been consistently doing a great job in the professional context, and there are many more emerging in categories such as neighborhoods (Nextdoor), classrooms (Edmodo), workplaces (Yammer), gyms (GymGroups) as well.
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3. The Future of Social Networking will be contextual

The fact that (1) Facebook’s response to the context problem, Friend Lists, has never caught up with the mainstream, (2) auto friend lists has not been up to par with expectations,  (3) Groups is Facebook’s achilles heel with its engagement lagging behind other Facebook properties, may be indicative that there will not be a single social networking product to encompass all contexts of our social life, but there will be many with different looks and functions.

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4. Social is not everywhere, and not on marketplaces

A real social operating system should be in the social fabrics of anything that touches social relationships. It’s great that Tinder and airbnb use Facebook in order to verify the authenticity of a member, but the new marketplaces such as the ubers and the airbnbs of the world could also benefit from enabling new social connections among their suppliers and consumers. From the marketplaces’ side, this would augment their suppliers from being purely profit-driven, which is the last thing any such marketplace should want.  It would make them no different than their predecessors (old-school hotel or taxi businesses)
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5. Social Graph has not infiltrated enough of the real world yet

In the online world, Facebook Connect is pretty much everywhere. And nowadays so is Google Accounts and Twitter and even Yahoo. But these online passports are yet to make themselves readily available in the real world.  For example, when you visit 1 Hacker Way, you sign on with your Facebook ID. Great but why not elsewhere? Or better yet, why don’t airlines check you in in one click with your social networking ID and organize the seatings according to your interests or social proximity? These are all feasible and could take place sooner than later.
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5. Social Graph has not infiltrated enough of the real world yet

On the other hand, we know Facebook is already distributing iBeacons to retail stores. If they can successfully nail this strategy in order to measure the impact of their ads to actual foot traffic, it may also enable them to recognize you in the real world and serve you personalized ads similarly to the movie Minority Report.

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6. A more open world & the importance of IoT

By leveraging the increased number of IoTs, the new social networks may sense more of what’s happening in our world and make the sharing more frictionless. It may sound creepy today to imagine a camera attached to your body as a wearable, or in your car or home, that continuously logs & perhaps streams what’s going on in your daily life.  These may all happen someday and they can make our lives richer if provided with the right privacy and selection options.
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7. A Censorship-Proof Open Distributed Social Networking Protocol

The Arab Spring and the Gezi Protests have shown the importance of social networking in free speech. In countries where traditional media is being obstructed and manipulated, social media is the last resort to stay informed. But, these governments are learning how to game this nascent media channel as well. The only way for a truly censorship-free war-time social communications platform is to create an alternate distributed-model.  This may be released as open source with server/client agents, or more preferably may be embedded into today’s popular social networking mobile apps as a new fall-back protocol that can be activated in such extreme cases. During Gezi protests, I wrote about the technical details of such a system on my personal blog.

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8. Social Phones & Browsers

Rather than apps, imagine a mobile phone with your friends’ or groups of friends’ pictures on its screen.  You click the name, then the actions (apps) appear; phone call, text, etc. This would be a social-first phone of which T-Mobile owns patents, from 2006.
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8. Social Phones & Browsers

On the browser side, Flock and RockMelt were two failed attempts to make the browser social, but there’s more that can still be done on this front as well. Social networks, particularly Twitter and Facebook, can take the lead and evangelize a social-first browser.

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9. Glasses

Glasses and augmented reality are becoming an important theme and a new hotbed of platform wars. The ability to sift through people’s public profile info effortlessly, will probably become one of the most important components of the augmented world to come.
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10. China and Russia

Today’s political scene and tensions in the world may make it sound impossible, but a social network will never become ubiquitous without connecting all the countries of the world. Facebook is doing everything it can to try to accomplish its goals, even by giving free internet access to the most challenging parts of the world. But,even with their persuasive ways, China and Russia remain something only politicians can seem to crack into.
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