Brian McConnell’s recent post about the history of social networks over at GigaOm was a great summary of where we’ve come from with a few insights into where we may be going that are worth paying attention to.
One projection where I think he’s on the right track is related to controlling one’s own data.
Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter have grown at incredible rates due to the power of simple networking and sharing with friends and colleagues. However, I think people will start to wake up and realize that they’ve been spending hours and hours every week generating content that they can’t control.
Why would you contribute to your blog on MySpace when MySpace doesn’t make it easy to export your own posts and comments?
Why would you spend hours contributing information about your favorite moves on FaceBook if you can’t export that information for use in NetFlix or Amazon?
Well, maybe YOU would, but I wouldn’t. And I think less and less power-contributors will do so over time.
So, what is the alternative? McConnell suggests that it’s a system where you control your own information but can easily publish it to anywhere you choose:
The good news for users is that this will be an open market, an ecosystem, with no lock in. Users will be able to choose among many profile and update publishing tools. They’ll also be able to use whatever search tool they prefer. Most importantly, users (a.k.a. publishers) will own their data, and will be able to control how it is presented to the outside world.
If you decide tomorrow that MySpace kind of sucks (which it does) and want to drop it for Facebook (which sucks less), no problem. Just more your main profile over there. It’s your data after all.
But better yet, have your own site where you publish all of the information that’s important to you, then syndicate into MySpace, Facebook, or anywhere else where you want to connect with people. That way, you control your own data and don’t end up being locked into the social network of the week.
Andrew Baron explained this well in a recent post about Twitter where he suggested that Robert Scoble is doing more to help Twitter than himself when he relies so heavily on Twitter for communication:
Though obviously not a rule-of-platform-thumb, If you are going to spend your every waking hour churning out content, Scoble!, ‘might as well get some better link cred for that instead of giving it all away to the Twitter.com domain name.
A quick search on Google for Robert Scoble shows that he’s split his time, energy, and contributions between a variety of platforms out of his control over the years. They’re not necessarily bad decisions, but each does have consequences. Just imagine the authority of Scoble’s brand from a link perspective had he published consistently at one address rather than at multiple blog platforms, Twitter, and various video publishing platforms?
Will McConnell’s view of the future be correct? I think things will head toward more control of content by individuals with competition by platforms to provide additional value to you through processing your lifetime of work. This doesn’t exist yet today, but it’s probably not far off.
If a few highly influential bloggers said, “forget it, I’m sick of making the next new thing rich off my content and influence” we’d get there a lot faster.