The Future Of Social Isn't Content Spewing (I Hope)
Monday, June 2, 2008; 2:09 PM
A conversation broke out today on the future of social media.
Venture capitalist Fred Wilson says his vision for the future of social media is very simply "every single human being posting their thoughts and experiences in any number of ways to the Internet."
Putting aside the fact that most people just don't want to publish online (and perhaps never will), I still think this vision is incredibly narrow.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing that online publishing isn't interesting. Scott Karp's recent rant that user generated content is "a new form of pollution" and extolling people to publish less, for example, is almost not worth responding to.
I don't agree with Karp, who's taking a side that also happens to promote the ideas of his new startup, but I'm not sure focusing on services that simply help people publish their life experiences is all that interesting either. Back in 2000 it was fairly hard to do things like write a blog, publish photos (don't even think about videos back then), or share bookmarks. Today, all that stuff is easy, and in fact there are so many blogging platforms, social networks, bookmarking sites, photo/video sharing services, etc., that consumers are getting overwhelmed with choices that differ only in name, it seems. Hell, we even have a micro publishing platform that limits posts to a single word.
Now that there are services for virtually every kind of content that users might conceivably want to publish, we need open standards and businesses to emerge that help people link all their disconnected content together into a single online identity - the Centralized Me. This stuff is badly needed because our content is all over the place on the Internet. And it's unlikely the big guys are going to do the right things for the community without significant pressure. This isn't necessarily sexy stuff, but it's important.
Let's Make All This Online Content Go To Work For us
The future of social media, I hope, isn't in more tools to help us spew more content. Instead, we need ideas and technology that can leverage all this available online content (including status and activity streams) to enhance real world social interactions.
The mobile device will be the center of this world. Forget using that device to simply publish content (although it is particularly suited to publish location data, photos and video content). Your mobile device should help you filter out people around you to bring mutually-interested people together. And it should also help you remember key information about the people you already know.
Perhaps that's exactly what Fred meant when he wrote his vision, but it sure looks like he's focused on simply recording the stuff of life and getting it onto the Internet. That seems like a commodity business to me. It's enhancing (and in the process controlling to some extent) all the ways people interact with each other that's the exciting stuff we'll be seeing shortly. Remember, the word "social" is there for a reason. The Internet isn't just about broadcasting and consuming, its about interaction.