Before starting to unfold my opinion on the Future of Social Media, I have to admit that I still do not have a clear view of Google’s new platform as I am not able to find an invitation. Nevertheless my “forecasting” is based on existing content and pre-launched material, while I try only to engage a discussion on Social Web’s future rather than predict the landscape.
Google+ is ready to launch, and it has created a lot of anticipation in the technical community. One of the main features promoted even before the launch of the platform in public is “Social Circles” and it was even supposed to give its name to the whole platform. The main idea behind Social Circles is the total control of the target of the message, as users are capable to choose people from the network and put them into specific “circles”-groups. I suppose that Google+ is going to allow users to put receivers of a message dynamically, every time they update their status, with the same drag ‘n’ drop simplicity.
A preview of the idea behind Google Circles has been available on the following Google presentation for one year now:
Facebook has already integrated a similar functionality, but it still lacks of simplicity; users have to go through settings, organize their contacts into groups and then choose what every group is able to see. Back on the publishing process now, when the user wants post new content, she is able to make it public, limit it to second degree connections (friends of friends), make it visible only to friends or customize it by hiding it from specific users. Just too complex. But does Facebook really want to facilitate its users’ privacy or is it just enforced from relative privacy organizations?
I am sure that Facebook will be forced to comfort to this new reality and put effort on facilitating the formulation of circles of trust by its users. Facebook’s team might even claim that this funcionality is covered by “messages”. They may be right in some extend, but still I estimate they will not follow MySpace’s mistakes and they will try to stop Google+ at its birth, by providing new features to their vast community.
Nevertheless, I feel like Facebook and Google fight to integrate existing technologies to their platforms, and promote them as new features. Of course I do not neglect the great power of each platform’s community (or potential Google’s community), I just try to focus on technologies:
- “Social Circles” reminds me Group Chatting, and the XMPP Protocol (used already on Google Talk and Facebook Chat) can easily replace that functionality
- “Facebook messages” is something between a chat and an email, with email to be established and open to everyone
- Any “public” and open messages could be published on a Blog Post or even via Twitter, where they would also be searchable, reusable and exposed to a global community
Here comes my question: at the extend we do not share (multimedia) content with a community, but only with specific users, can we still talk about Social Media? At the extend users only state their connections with other users, and do not share content with their community, is there any other reason to call such a platform social networking? At least, do we follow the opposite way by closing platforms as they become mainstream, while on the beginning we tried to make them more open to a collaborative community? Does this trend follows other social or economical tendency? In my humble opinion we are just talking about two main companies that try to replace the Web, with their own platforms.
On a research prospect of view I am quite sceptical to the upcoming changes. On a business aspect now, there is no doupt that an explicit declaration of the type of connection among users makes developers’ life easier, and allows platforms to provide better advertising results. But can we still discuss here about Social Media, or do we slowly move to the “Cable Social Media” era?
I am very interested in your opinion.