Social Networking is not a hype any more. It’s not a phenomenon any more. It is the present. We live it, breathe it and thrive in it. For the laggards, you have to try it. Well, what is “it”? Social Networking is the concept of communicating with friends (acquaintances) in lieu of email (the chosen form of communication for the last 15 years), sharing information such as images, videos, web-content etc., For the purposes of this post, let’s just focus on social networking for people building personal networks. At this stage, Facebook is synonymous with Social Networking. In fact, it is fast catching up as a verb just as Google did.
I thought I went back a long way (depending on your perspective ofcourse) with social networking. From the picture, it’s obvious I don’t. From the late 70s till now, we have been exposed to variants of “social networking”.
For those of you who don’t have the patience to read the whole post, I suggest watching this interesting video from Time.com (< 3 min). Unfortunately, Time.com hasn’t provided a source, but, I believe the sites and/or events mentioned are in the ball-park.
The Why, How and Who?
All along people have tried to form communities, chat rooms, forums etc., but none offered an intuitive and easy solution. For instance, with chat rooms, it quickly gets ugly to manage and contribute effectively. And there always remained a small matter of anonymity that the internet fostered. To be fair, these problems haven’t been solved completely, but, we are moving along in the right direction.
Early in the decade, when Friendster was launched, I tried it once. Then came along, Hi5 and then myspace, followed by Orkut. I spent a fair bit of time on Orkut because most of my friends were on Orkut. I got myself a facebook account just for the heck of it really early. Everyone, soon followed me. As you can see, most of these sites’ success depends on their ability to attract users and more importantly, engage and retain them. As Mark Zuckerberg says in his interviews, the human element is important for “social networks”. He should know. He took down myspace and the rest of the competition that had a stranglehold in some markets. For example, Orkut was really popular in Brazil (Latin Americas) and India. Now, there’s been a huge immigration to Facebook. In fact, last year (barely a few months back) Facebook overtook Orkut in India.
It’s hard to predict technology trends. Mary Meeker is probably as accurate as anyone can get. She’s a Cornell MBA as well [Shout out to her]. Her Internet Report published in 1995 was called the Bible. See here – The Internet Bible. In Google’s atmosphere event, she presented an interesting report on mobile internet. The slide on the right [with some modifications from me] depict an example from the current hyper-growth technologies – Social Networking (Facebook) and (iPhone) What’s interesting is that Social Networking is increasingly mobile and by design, enable communication on the go. Tying back to my cloud services posts (here, here and here) earlier, this goes to show social networking will be one of the biggest drivers for cloud services. Currently, Facebook hosts 15B photos and has more pictures than Photobucket, Flickr or Picasa combined and people upload 100MM pictures daily. As can be seen from the above slide, applications at the cross-roads of mobile and social networking will be the real hyper-growth areas and to a large extent, applications without a mobile flavor don’t make sense. All the Fortune-1000 companies are investing in cloud services, social networking and mobile applications to enable better productivity for their employees.
We’ll explore if enterprises are right to invest their $$ on their own versions of social networking applications or are better off leveraging existing platforms in a later post.