Unifying the Social Graphs

Unifying the Social Graphs

The people I want to follow on Etsy are not the same people I want to follow on Twitter. The people I want to follow on Svpply are not my Facebook friends. I don’t want to share my Foursquare checkins with everyone on Twitter and Facebook.

Fred Wilson wrote a marvelous post, from which I drew the quote above.  The rest of the post and the follow up post are both recommended reading.  If you’ve switched over and read those two articles and then came back, you can skip the rest of this paragraph (I’m going to sum up his thoughts).  If you didn’t, shame on you for ignoring someone who saw the potential of Twitter before any of us, but I’ll summarize for you.  In the first post, Wilson asks for a feature that will allow him to integrate his social graphs so that he can view what’s going on in one place through the context of what’s going on in another.  For example, “Jane wants to be your friend on Facebook.  You have purchased a painting from Jane on Etsy and while you don’t follow her on Twitter, she follows you and you’ve had a few conversations.”  That would make it a lot easier to befriend someone on Facebook, don’t you think?  In the second post Fred argues that what solves this problem may well be your mobile phone book.  Most of the smart phones today, pull in status updates and icons from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Anymore, nearly half of my phone calls start with me looking down and seeing someone’s smiling face.  Fred ends the second post with this quote, “Every big powerful technology company has met a new technology that has undone their dominance. For Microsoft it was open source and the Internet. For Google, it appears that it may be social. For Facebook, it appears that it may be mobile.”

I have a ton to say about this, and don’t have the time to organize my thoughts in to a well written essay.  The first thought listed here is my main one.  Everything else is just a tangent, but worth sharing since I’m not going to take the time for a full essay.

  • I’m not so sure that there will be entirely separate social graphs.  Customers are demanding more and more integration (over APIs) with existing social graphs like Twitter and Facebook.  Perhaps all that is necessary is for Twitter (lists) and Facebook (groups and the concept of like vs friend) to do better at allowing me to segregate my friends, people I buy things from, my colleagues, etc…  Then I wouldn’t need multiple social networks nor a social network aggregator.  No doubt that Facebook’s $50B evaluation is based on this thought.
  • Fred is amazing for discussing this so openly, he basically gave a rough sketch of the type of company he thinks might be the next Twitter.  I have more to say about this kind of openness, but it will have to wait for another day.
  • It’s very early to be talking about this.  Only just over a third of Americans are even using smart phones and most people are only on ONE social network, so they have no need to consolidate their social graphs.  Not that the winner won’t be picked early, just that most of us won’t realize anyone’s won for quite some time.
  • I kind of think that mobile is not its own technology movement, but an extension of cloud.  Mobile forces processing in to the cloud and applications in to browser type simplicity, which is the same thing cloud forces.
  • Facebook could still be the leader in mobile.  It would shock me if we don’t see a huge play from them in this space by the end of the year.

Ok, now if anyone wants to take those five points and craft a well rounded essay, go for it.  Otherwise just comment as you like.