I sat down to think about this question, “Where will social media sites be in five or ten years?” Following are my ramblings. I’m not an expert on social media or social networks, but thought I could tackle the question. I’d love to hear from you as well.
Will it take twenty years to really see a difference in social media sites? Do huge leaps in technology take place overnight? Ten years ago, Fark, Digg, and most other sites were mere twinkles in their developers’ eyes. Ten years from today we may see one large social networking site and other social media sites all combined. It will probably come down to who buys out who.
Then I read what Charlene Li said in her Future of Social Networks post.
There are four components of what I’m calling this idea of “ubiquitous social networks”: 1) Profiles; 2) Relationships; 3) Activities; and 4) Business models…But in the context of ubiquitous social networks, they will develop into the following: 1) Universal identities; 2) A single social graph; 3) Social context for activities; and 4) Social influence defining marketing value.
Sites like friendfeed, ping.fm, and socialthing.com really intrigue me. These are social media sites that revolve around other social media sites. It could be the future of the beast. They may continue to roll-up other social media sites, becoming the destination themselves. In the future these sites will have so many sites for you to connect, you’ll not want to leave their convenience. Again, it’s really a matter of which company buys out the others.
Charlene’s four components would be active in one large network, giving companies like big telephone companies a way to engage customers, knowing far more about their end-user from profiles through the MegaSpace than they ever did before. Cable companies could use the profiles to create user specific programming guides, directing commercials to individuals. It will likely mark the end of privacy.
So where do all the voting, profile, community, content driven sites lead us? A lot depends on the future of the internet. Will it remain open? Will the next generation build better, faster communication channels?
Take Note of Real World Businesses
To what extent we communicate and interact depends largely on how far into the future you want to go. Ten years from now, blogs will be a school project, an English final, a marketing challenge, and on everyone’s mobile phones. RSS feeds will come directly to mobile phones. It’s almost there now.
Ten years is a long time. In that time, it’s likely Facebook and Myspace will become the Walmarts of the online world. They’ll provide everything we need at no cost. These companies will only be challenged by those that begin to question the formula of the sites. How could they do it better?
And How Could Social Media Be Improved?
Social media sites have this malleability to them that other sites cannot capture. A twitter user can connect and communicate rapidly with hundreds of individuals, while a static site can only present information in one fashion. Sites like Digg move in one direction one week (Batman) and completely reverse content emphasis the next (Obama).
At this point, online publishers generate millions of pages of content a day, likely in an hour. Users churn out blog posts, videos, reviews, podcasts, and submit it to Digg, SU, or Del.icio.us. The web opens up its jaws and seemingly keeps opening wider for all this content to come rushing through. At times, it clamps down on a particularly fascinating piece and everyone gets a taste of it. It becomes popular and within time has been viewed by millions, even tens of millions, of users. The real challenge will be to streamline new content to users in the most efficient way possible.
Many of the popular sites today handle this quite well. Digg has user generated submissions with voting up or down. Twitter has conversations and content flying everywhere. But what could a site do to capture content, categorize it in a new way, and/or present it to the user in a different fashion than has already been accomplished? Can a social media network link together, simplify, and aggregate content to the end user without losing touch without sacrificing the good?
Social Media Networks Will Be One Giant Network (or Two)
It’s safe to say someone will get bought out. Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, Hi5 — one of them will faceplant into the lap of a rival. It’s going to happen. Then like two twisters merging they will lay waste to the remaining networks, until eventually the future will have become a single network with many cogs.
So the future will likely be one large network shared among many different media platforms. Our profile will regulate what food our refrigerator orders from the online grocery store, what movies get downloaded to our entertainment room’s computer, and where the nearest coffee shop with our brand of beans can be found. It will be a world marked by invididuality and pushing the boundaries of privacy. It wont’ be Orwellian, if we remain vigilant.