A freind of mine made a comment (on Facebook) that he thinks social sites are "a fashion" and won't be where we get all out info from. He's right I guess (or is he?) but the point is that this got me thinking about where social media is really headed.
We all know things chop and change at an incredible rate here on planet internet(/webz/whateverz) and tomorrow's Facebook and Google+ sure ain't gonna look much like it does today (well litterally it will, but not figuratively.. doh, you know what I mean ;-).
What I envisage is the following. Our actual social profile will be a metaphorical cloud that hovers above all the social sites we interact with, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (to take these as examples).
What on earth am I talking about? Well let's look at it from my personal perspective as a social media user. Why do I use social media? To interact with others of course. Other people, other brands, other celebrities (maybe). Do I really as a user want to have to care if I'm on Google+ or Facebook, or if my "friends"/"followers" are on Twitter or Google+? No, why should I need to remember who's where? It simply gets in the way of my activities.
What I want to be able to do is communicate with my contacts from a client (whether it be a web client or an app) by simply choosing an individual or a group, just like Facebook's friend lists and Google+ circles. I do not want to have to first think whether I need to cross-post to Facebook cos half my buddies aren't on Google+ or vice versa, my cool Google+ friends have exited Facebook in a puff of smoke.
A contact should not be tied to a social network. If I want to contact my friend Joe Smith, I should simply have to select Joe Smith and send him a message, without having to be concerned if he's on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, and without him having to be concerned that he's set up all kinds of forwarding mubo jumbo either.
I see the contact Joe Smith as a bubble, that contains all Joe's contact info, including his various social network subscriptions. When I send something to Joe's bubble, I want my message to be made visible to him on all his social networks, or perhaps just the one where he's currently "online".
Bear with me.. not only do I want to be able to contact Joe in this fashion, but I also want to be able to do it from inside whatever network I happen to have open in front of me. You see I'm not saying i'm using a cool 3rd-party client here. I should be able to do this natively from any social network specific client, including web.
Now we all know Facebook does everything in its power to stop others poaching its users. But why should another network need to poach if we had a friendly way where social networks could share info without actually poaching it.
I'd like to be able to, from inside Facebook, put my friends into friends lists, but not just my Facebook friends. If my buddy is on Google+ I want to be able to put him in a Facebook friend list. Facebook should be able to connect to Google+ and without actually "importing" my friend's info, allow me to pop him in a friend list. And vice versa. In Google+ I want to add my friend who's only on Facebook to a Circle: should not be a problem.
If the social networks came together on this they could spend less time fighting over users and poaching prevention.
Also let's say I'm in my Twitter client, and my buddy is on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and Twitter knows this (because I've allowed Twitter to connect to these other networks) then as far as I'm concerned if I mention that person or DM that person, I just want Twitter to make sure that person gets the message. So I want it to pop up in their Facebook, and Google+, as well as in their Twitter (or as I said before a smart system may simply look where that person was online first. So if they were online on Facebook it would only appear there and not in Google+.)
Remember I'm looking at it from my, the user's, point of view. I spend too much time thinking about who's in what network and on what list. That has to become more transparent. We have open social networks (OpenSocial?) but i'm talking more about an open social API. If we can do it for security (OAuth) let's do it for interchanging social info and it needs to be a real time exchange of info.
This may be a long way away, but seeing as there are at least two major players that will probably not be going anywhere anytime soon (Facebook and Google+) and possibly 3 (Twitter) it seems to me we have an inpasse on the social network front. There ain't gonna be "one ring to rule them all". Google+ has now made sure of that. So how long is it gonna be before these guys put the user first and open up the boundaries a bit?