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It is easy to forecast far into the future, as it gives licence to the imagination! Such predictions, however, do not have much of an immediate impact. Short-term forecasts, on the other hand, are far more helpful for decision-makers to align their current moves. Unfortunately, making such predictions is not easy and comes with its own responsibilities. This was the challenge we threw at experts this month, to tell us what social networking (SN) would be like in 2010. Which media and tools would gain ground, what forms would social networking take, and what would it be used for? Here is a summary of their views...
Social networking as a 'technology'
Social Networking 1.0 focused on establishing virtual connections between people, creating 'Social Graphs'. The last few years have seen the emergence of Social Networking 2.0, where the priority has shifted from the connections between people to content. We have seen the emergence of rich media sharing, RSS feeds, digital whiteboards, custom application programming interfaces (APIs), podcasts, etc.
Romit Dasgupta, director, India Konnects, says Social Networking 3.0 would see social networking being used as a technology (SNT) rather than as a product or a service. "The future of social networks would see custom tools (APIs) being built for networks of specific interest groups. For example, a business networking portal like Konnects.com might have a business lead-generation tool whereas a Shelfari.com, which is a social network for book lovers, might include a tool to track authors and their recent releases. So, new features would mostly be added on in the form of custom APIs."
A segmented world
Dasgupta feels that the users of 2010 would follow a segmented approach to social networking. "I see services like Ning dominating the social market space whereas services like LinkedIn or Konnects would dominate the professional networking space. Portals like Facebook, Orkut and MySpace would still have a decent market share because of the volume of their registered users," he says.
When you look deeper, even these broad-based SN sites thrive on segmentation. For instance, Facebook organises networks according to city, workplace, school, and region. Members can interact by sending messages to one another. Users can be members of multiple networks and even have access to their friends; profiles. By understanding that all these people have a common objective, like their place of education, they are better placed to provide a more successful and proficient service to the user.