I’ve been watching the discussions around the launch of Google+ with interest. In the press there’s a definite “Coke vs Pepsi”, “Microsoft vs Apple” flavor to the discussion…I don’t think this is relevant, as much as the press seems to like to hype, speculate and crow over every blow-by-blow “win” or “lose” as if it were a football game.
For me the relevant paradigm shift is that Facebook’s monopoly has been broken; Google has opened Pandora’s box, and I think social networking will be revolutionized by it.
Because it won’t be about choosing which one you use, and then convincing all your friends to migrate. Everyone will just sign up for both – as it’s free (more on that later) there’s no need to choose.
“But my friends are all on ABC.com!” you say. (Ok, Facebook).
A hurdle, initially, as you need two apps, browsers, or however you interact with your social networking site. A royal pain indeed (and really very Web 1.0, if I do say so myself).
And let’s not forget, Facebook and Google+ are only one flavor of current social networking sites. Everything from Linkedin to YouTube, Tumblr to Delicious, Twitter to StumbleUpon etc is a form of social networking – and we currently use each of these alone, with nary an integration in sight. Which is contributing to why it seems – well, overwhelming. Even to those of us who live and breathe this industry.
Until there’s an app developed that eliminates the need to interact on those sites / apps only. It will pull the relevant data you specify in the manner you want it delivered, when you want it delivered, and in the format you want to interact with it. In other words, someone will develop an uber app which will let you personalize how you interact with other people digitally.
Because (imposed) walled gardens and dictated formats ultimately don’t work in the digital world.
Concurrently, I predict that as people find faults with Google+ (the lack of anonymity being one that annoys me personally, and how insidiously it is integrated with the rest of the data Google has on you) just as they did with Facebook’s privacy issues, personalized modular type social networking “networks” will emerge, where you can tailor your own features and functionality and roll it out to your own network. A more drastic version of Google+’s circles – where you pull various desired modules together into a customized interface, and network with people across not just computer/phone based interaction points, but across all channels.
Because increasingly communication will not be typing based, there is also voice, video, and a plethora of other ways to communicate your thoughts, verbally, aurally, visually.
Which leads to the subject of another blog post, about how human/computer interface is changing – but I leave that for another day.
I also think people will start paying a subscription-based fee to engage in social networking that gives them the opportunity to control how they interact; the current “free because of advertising” model is only one option, but I believe as people will increasingly demand control over their privacy, actually paying for the privilege of keeping their information personal will outweigh the cost.
So – like Pandora’s box, which also included Hope (and which Pandora left inside the box after snapping the lid shut and letting all the evils escape), there is a potential upside to all this. Currently the giants of the industry are controlling how we use social networking – and we have little to say. But ultimately increased fragmentation will lead to more consumer control. The box hasn’t been snapped shut yet.