Has the bubble popped on social media?
I caught up with Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner on Wednesday morning after a breakfast at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., and he gave an interesting answer. Rather than highlighting the shortcomings of social media companies, Rattner painted the broad strokes of what social media could ultimately become.
The breakfast was convened to discuss Jon Gertner’s latest book, “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.” The discussion served as an interesting tour through the rich history of Silicon Valley and the collaboration (and disagreements) among some of the region’s most storied innovators.
Of course, the discussion touched often on the valley’s big names, including Robert Noyce, Sherman Fairchild and William Shockley, and their inventions, collaborations and disagreements. The breakfast was hosted by noted Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, Aspen’s president and CEO.
I had spoken with Rattner back in October on the future of tablet technology and the power of data in job creation. When I asked him whether the technology sector had reached an inflection point as a result of a popped bubble in the social media sector, he said:
As we move to systems that are contextually aware, they’re going to draw on both of these sources — they are going to draw on the hard sensors and the soft sensors — and inference your current context, your future context based on all those sources of information. So I think social networking in that view is not an end in itself, it’s merely one of this broad class of soft sensors that can be used for a greater purpose than just you and me sharing photos or what we’re doing every microsecond. All the sensors will take care of that part.
... Right now what people do with social networks is more or less completely manual, and I think, in the future, other than knowing who’s in your social network and knowing where they rank in the order of things. ... A lot of the information that lands in those social networks could be generated automatically. And when it’s generated automatically — albeit with perhaps less curation than people have time for — then I think the notion of the social network as sort of a endpoint — a destination — will fade.
Whether the social media bubble has popped or not is the short game. Here, Rattner outlines the long game — a world in which social media is merely one part of a much larger and more connected Web of systems in which users have full ownership of their data in a personal cloud that can report nearly every aspect of their lives back to them and to others.
It will be interesting to see, in this world, what Facebook’s stock price looks like.
What do you think? Is Rattner on target or do you have a different vision for the future of social media.
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