Social Network Evolution

Twitter is dead, long live Twitter FriendFeed. That seems to sum up the general sentiment floating around this weekend. After months of troubled operation, many Twitter users are  jumping over to FriendFeed. We’ve seen the social media mass exodus before, I imagine will see it a few more times still. FriendFeed does have one distinct advantage, why switch to yet another service when you can simply import it into FriendFeed?

I keep saying that aggregation is the future of social media, or at least the next step. While attempting to look forward, lets look back as well. For that I give you the evolution of social networks, or at least from experience.


Disconnected Me

The lonely days, the dial-up days, the disconnected days. Sure we had things like BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) and Usenet but connections were difficult to forge. BBSs went multi-node and services like AOL increased social connections to some degree. E-mail and on the fly chat rooms provided the best avenues for communication. This eventually grew to include message boards and various types of profile based websites.


Friendship Redesigned

Taking a few steps ahead of the very first social networks (classmates.com was one of them) we find our selves at Friendster. I’ll never forget how simply out right confused I was by the whole concept. It was my first experience where you *HAD* to build friendship connections to really use the site. As you built your social network you could further peel back its layers, look at friends of your friends and so forth. It was this onion like setup that made the services so interesting, and of course a massive time suck.


Social Network Fatigue

Evolving further, social networking web sites are everywhere. Two major players emerge in the form of MySpace and Facebook. Today they are now even part of popular culture. We begin to see tons of services launch with social networking features. Some of us run to each new service, play around for a bit and then quickly abandon it. Many social networks begin to look like ghost towns, littered with millions of long forgotten profiles. Most “normal” users find one particular network that appeals to them, making it their online home. These types of users don’t even want to think about joining other social networks, they just don’t have the time, energy or interest.


Aggregated Me

Now here we are today, our online impressions spread well across the internets. Services like FriendFeed are making it much easier follow your friends. In fact, following is becoming a preferred mechanism to friending someone. Data (activity) is starting to move around more freely thanks in part to things like RSS, Dataportibility and APIs. Lifecasting in whatever medium has never been easier. Twitter becomes a joke on The Daily Show as these services trickle down into mainstream usage.


Whats Next

I can’t tell you the next step in social network evolution, but I can tell you what I’d like to see. I’d much rather that central hub be something I control. A type of service or technology I can deploy and manage from my own domain. A decentralized me where people could follow and interact. As wonderful as FriendFeed is, I can’t help but feel I’m jumping to yet another online rental property. Personally, I’d rather own the home myself.

That said, please follow me on FriendFeed. 🙂

Sean Percival

Sean Percival is an American author, investor and entrepreneur.