Just a couple of items around the news today to discuss. MySpace has started what they are calling a “data availability initiative”. They have developed a series of tools to help people recreate and update their profile on other sites and the ability to “export” friends to other applications. This seems to be inline with where the social networking sites are going, playing nice across the Web rather than focusing on engagement within the platform. That is just what Mark Zuckerberg said about the shift in Facebook’s strategy in 2008. But, as the article highlights, Facebook’s openness has thus far been limited to the interaction with developers of their apps. Same with Open Social.
To me, there are two key directions for social media. One is in developing tools that help people manage information across social networks, places like FriendFeed and Social Thing come to mind. These sites provide tools that allow you to manage your profile, integrate your feeds, and update your status across networks. But, this MySpace announcement shows that these individual platforms can do things that can facilitate integration. Honestly, the winners will be the ones that provide the tools that are most useful to users. I think that news sites could learn a lesson here.
The other direction for social media is in these niche social networks. I have one that I started for former students at webpubnet.ning.com. Ning allows users to make their own social network, so it you love cats, or are a fan of Halo, or really like pizza, you can start a social network for those like you. But, this strategy compounds the need for the 1st strategy above. Since the first of the year, I have joined six social networks, not to mention being involved with several blogs. My participation has been disorganized and inconsistent. So, while I agree that social networks around specific, maybe local, interests will be important, it will only be so to the extent that people can manage these spaces.