Welcome to the Mess we call Social Networking

I am reminded of the Billy Joel tune “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. In the song he chronicles history in about 4 minutes 40 seconds. The chorus says “We didn’t start the fire, It was always burning since the world’s been turning.

Well, we DID start the Internet, and we DID start Web 2.0 and Social Networking. Now it’s ignited and it’s time to fight it.

With new ideas coming out daily and web sites popping up left and right, it’s confusing to know what is going to be the next big thing and what’s gonna fizzle. Better yet, whats going to mess this whole thing up by taking it in a new direction.

Let’s start with the Biggies. You have MySpace, Facebook, Hi-5, Orkut, Friendster and Skyrock. Yes, I missed a lot of others: we will be getting to those. For categorizing sake, we’ll start with these.

Now there are others out there with the same MySpace – flavor. Facebook has went Open-Source so you can put a bit of the Book on your site. But really – how many have jumped on this bandwagon?

These sites let you put up a profile and blog, add calendar events, find friends and message them as well as a lot of other things. They pretty much started that way and were looking for tight knit “Closed” communities. However, these sites sometimes have become a wasteland of names. Some that don’t log on for months and others that have 2 or more profiles. I should know. I have 4 MySpace profiles. I only have 1 Facebook, and no Orkut, Friendster (which I think I did sign up for at one time) or Skyrock profiles.

Then you have “Becomming Social Network” sites. YouTube and Flickr are a couple examples. They started out as a specific site where you post Video or Photos. Now they want you to have friends, comments, messages, calendar events and Microblogs.

That’s a perfect segway to the next part, Microblogs. Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, Tumblr, Jaiku, Xanga and a whole lot more. I even saw a company that was selling Microblogging software so you could build the next Twitter. You can control those with programs like Twhirl, Squij and Ping.fm. You can even collect them in one handy place like Friendfeed.

When I post, I mostly use Ping.fm. It sends my 140 characters or less to Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, Facebook, Identa.ca, Jaiku, MySpace, Tumblr and Xanga. And there are still nine other sites I could sync to.

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If you reply to my post, it shows up on that specific site. If you direct message me, it can show up on my phone. I can even post items from my phone. Just need the email address Ping.fm gives me.

Confused yet? Well we have a LONG way to go. So let’s just turn on the Cliff notes at this point.

Most of these sites have been around for only a few years. However, there is one company that could be considered a catylist for this new wave of sites. That is AOL.

Not to say that other services from the 90’s didn’t help out. Prodigy, MSN and Compuserve all had their hand in this. However, AOL seems to be the one that stuck it out this far and could come back into the game.

Actually, I call sites like MySpace the marriage of AOL and Geocities. Communities with customization  and you don’t need to know that silly HTML code to get in. Of course you now can add applications to your MySpace and Facebook like SuperPoke and Top Friends.

Widgets and add ons are available for everything – from that phpbb or YABB Bullitin board you went to all the time in 2002 to the MoveableType or WordPress Blog or even the CMS sites like Joomla or PHPNuke. Just change the theme, customize the site with a few pieces of code and you are off and running.I think I have even seen a WordPress site with the right customizations so it became a mini Social Networking site.

Are we even done yet? Not really. We haven’t even touched on what Microsoft and Yahoo are doing in Community and Social Networking. Have you heard of NING? How about MYEEOS, which is Social Networking with a $5 a month sticker? Hangout.net is in Beta.

Here is the biggest issue. We have Billions of people from around the world connecting to these sites, which is good. Some sites will prevail and succeed. Others will start out well, but ultimately decide to close shop or even sell to a competitor. Just like anything else, the big dogs can gobble up the mom and pop shops if they have something to offer. Maybe a patented system to post messages or a great scheme to maintain the backend of the system.

It is only going to get more confusing. Your friends are on brand A, but you really like brand B. Brand C just accidentally posted your private detail. Brand D is continually having connection problems. Brand E works like a champ but nobody uses it. Brand F looks abandoned: code is starting to break down and the admins haven’t logged in about 6 months or more.

These sites are all striving to do the same thing – be the next household name. With the fame comes revenue. Get it while you can because tomorrow you might get replaced with the newest fad. Even Billy Joel stopped writing pop music – at least for now.

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  • Business Networking

    I haven’t really used any of those. I’ve used business networking sites like Linkedin, Schmoozii, and Xing. I just can’t get into the social networking sites.

  • sergio

    Great article!

    It would be great to hear any proposals o tentative solutions. How can we organize that “tsunami” of information we get every day and really, really use all of the good things of these sites and communications capabilities for online and grassroots organizing.

    How can we go from online support to real action?

    Any thoughts!

  • http://www.geekazine.com Jeffrey Powers

    Good idea Sergio. I will have to think about this one.

  • sergio

    Gooddd luck! let me know if you want to bounce some ideas, I’m VP of Online Organizing for a national non-profit in Washington and I have to deal with that “mess” day after day after day.

  • http://www.konterfai.com Pierro

    I am surprised that so many still use myspace.
    Goof luck – “Now it’s ignited and it’s time to fight it.”
    but without me, i love Social Networks

  • http://www.geekazine.com Jeffrey Powers

    I kinda do, too. It’s a great way to meet and talk with people.

  • http://dorkazine.com Thomasilly

    I just stumbled this! I have been stumbling for months, and I JUST bumped into this site! Weird!