Forrester Research's Charlene Li, who has become the poster analyst for social networking technologies, offered some interesting prognostications on where the space is heading at the Graphing Social Patterns in San Diego this morning.
Li believes social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, and those leveraging Google's OpenSocial framework, will basically cross-breed with e-commerce giants such as Amazon and eBay and portals such as AOL and Yahoo (curiously, her presentation assumed Yahoo would remain stand-alone) .
People will access this just as they do any other network—e-mail address and perhaps even a mobile phone number. The bottom line is to integrate social networks into common activities.
So, when Li goes to buy a book on Amazon, some API will tap into her social networks to pull out a book review from one of her friends. This will achieve a couple things.
One, it will alleviate some of the "social media fatigue" plaguing people who join multiple networks. Two, it will make e-commerce a more fun, social experience.
This makes sense in the name of efficiency. Someone in the audience, however, challenged the assumption that people want to jump from one social network to another.
In short, certain walled gardens are good. What we may like to share with our significant others, we might not want to share with our drinking buddies. Li agreed integrating the networks is a delicate operation, noting that she is actually anonymous on eBay and other places.
Another reason not to have total integration of social networks: What will happen to good ole fashioned conversation? I like to discuss good books or movies with friends.
If I go on Amazon to read a review from a friend, this will eliminate a potential interesting conversation about a film or book. Of course, this won't keep me from discussing the movie or novel after the fact, but it still eliminates a potential conversation starter.
This is a minor example, but extend that to stock portfolios, business, etc. We will stop conversing as much because we already know what our friends and colleagues think. That's not necessarily a good thing. Do we really want to make social networking our chief mouthpiece?
So maybe we want to be a little careful how far down the social network-portal integration rabbit hole we go.