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Social Network Fatigue Coming? 196

mrspin offers the opinion of ZDNet blogger Steve O'Hear that users may soon tire of social networks — if they don't open up and embrace standards allowing greater interoperability among the different networks. O'Hear writes: "Unless the time required to sign-in, post to, and maintain profiles across each network is reduced, it will be impossible for most users to participate in multiple sites for very long." In an earlier post he went into more detail on the same subject, with extensive opinions from four creators of social networks. A contrary data point comes from the Apophenia blog, in a post noting the tendency among young users to create ephemeral profiles, and not to mind at all if they have to re-enter data. "Teens are not looking for universal anything; that's far too much of a burden if losing track of things is the norm." What does Slashdot think — is data portability among social networking sites a big deal or not?
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Social Network Fatigue Coming?

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  • No, it's not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hahafaha ( 844574 ) * <> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @10:53PM (#17439046)

    Social network fatigue is not coming.

    Why, you ask? The reason is that as the number of things that people do increases, so does the number of things that social networking sites offer. A great example is Yahoo! which I would argue is a social networking site. It offers email, games, news, music, you name it. I am convinced beyond a doubt that they will start offering blogging in the near future, particularly, as competition to Google's Blogger.

    Yahoo! is a great example of an all-in-one philosophy. Google is doing similar things. Pretty soon, however, people are just going to have one account on one giant social networking site. There will be competition, of course, and some will have accounts on one but not the other, but pretty soon, very few people are going to actually have many different accounts.

  • weird coincidence (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:01PM (#17439108)
    Coincidentally I deleted my myspace account today. I found myself spending too much time stalking people. Kinda creepy really.
  • plasticity of identity, the throw away indentity. it makes sense for teenagers and their psychological development as they grapple with exactly who they are: try on one identity, throw it away, start over. it also means that the generation that grows up with the web from birth will be very used to the idea of identities being disposable, for themselves, and in how others act towards them as well

    this opens up new weaknesses in social interaction, and new strengths. in a world where identity theft is a growing menace, why would that matter when your identity is made of mercury anyways? at the same time, how can anyone be trusted in a world where the idea of a solid identity is built on a foundation of sand?

    i see weird confluences of unseen consequences coming out of the new plasticity of identity due to how the web works in the generation currently in their teens, making its way into their very psychology. in ways us ancient fossils in our 20s and 30s won't even understand

    "bah, kids these days"

  • About time! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sacbhale ( 216624 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:06PM (#17439144)
    Social networks should soon start seeing interoperability like email. Because like TFA says people are not interested to go join every new site that pops up but would love to be in touch with the people who are on that site and not the one they am on. Just like we are begining to see the consolidation of IM networks (Yahoo talking to MSN, Jabber servers talkin to each other etc) there'd better start a move to interconnect the social networks soon. They dont all have to have the exact same features but agree to interoperate on a minimum set of them should not be a big problem.
  • Single service (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:11PM (#17439196) Journal

    I was under the impression that most people stuck to a single service anyway. Maybe they have multiple accounts across the board, but they probably devote most of their time to just one.

    Which one they choose depends on their "network." Just like instant messaging, some people will use aim, some will use yahoo, some will use msn. Some will try to keep up with all of them, and some will occasionally convert for someone special. The headline makes it sound like people will tire of social networking in general, but typically people will always be social, so that won't hurt the business.

  • by pestilence669 ( 823950 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:18PM (#17439252)
    Reading profiles and looking at friend lists will get old eventually. If Napster were still around, I doubt kids would even waste their time.
  • Re:No, it's not (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:20PM (#17439282)
    "very few people are going to actually have many different accounts."
    I disagree with this "mondo site" philosophy. Young people drive a lot of what's hip and not hip. Yes, technology can build and gain momentum but social aspects are popularity driven, not technology driven. The tech is not always obvious. MySpace arguably has some of the worse tech and a hideous interface yet it's popular. I believe there will be more fragmentation and popularity will shift from site to site as it always has.
  • by daeg ( 828071 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:21PM (#17439288)
    Re-keying profile data is nothing -- how often do you change your birthplace or last name?

    The guts of every social networking website is the friends systems, messaging/IM, photos, blogging (of one form or another), commenting, etc. Why would SocialNetworkA want to share that with SocialNetworkB? That assumes they are alike, and for social networking websites to all survive, they will need to differentiate and stay that way. In face, they already have -- Facebook, for instance, is geared more toward the college student/post-college professional. MySpace was started for bands/music. Etc.

    When you're posting about your class schedule, do you really care if your friends back home on MySpace see it? Doubtful.

    Besides, if all the social networking websites were the same, how could teens carry on their multiple mood swings throughout a day?

    Mood: happy :-)
    Mood: angry >:\
    Mood: horny :-o
    Mood: suicidal X-|
  • Re:Relevancy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cloricus ( 691063 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:23PM (#17439302)
    Due to the choice of words of the parent post to this it will get modded troll though I think it is an important question. What is the point of these pits of content? I play my favorite mmo (eve online) and I chat with the guys on that often, I idle on irc and chat with people I know there, and I've got the odd forum around the place. Though at the end of the day though I leave the house and socialise with my friends at our local net cafe or hang out at different places. These social networking sites seem to grab the non geeks around and draw them onto the net even though they already have the real life social aspect. And I'm the geek! It basically leaves me thinking it is a fad or nothing at all.

    Seriously am I the only one that just doesn't get social networking sites?
  • Nobody cares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:25PM (#17439328)
    We'll see a decline in social networking sites, but not due to lack of standards. It will be due to lack of use. Growth will slow to zero, since anyone who wants to do that shit already does. In the meantime, they'lllose users like mad as people realize that

    1)There's no damn difference between a myspace account and a personal webpage people have had since the 90s
    2)Nobody really reads the damn things anyway- people love writing due to the sheer egotism of it, but nobody really reads the damn things except the small circle of friends they'd talk to anyway.

    They don't care about signing in (come on, 90% of people just use the remember me or browser password storage anyway). They don't need a standard way to enter text, its a giant textbox everywhere. They don't care about profile sharing, chances are far and away they use a single main site and only update that one anyway. There's no real benefit to a standard for any of these things.
  • by Gideon Fubar ( 833343 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:29PM (#17439358) Journal
    yes, except everyone is an army brat now.
  • Absolutely, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dominion ( 3153 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:30PM (#17439372) Homepage
    if they don't open up and embrace standards allowing greater interoperability among the different networks.

    It makes perfect sense for people outside of these corporations to see that... But from within, how do you balance interoperability with the business necessity of maintaining your users? For-profit sites aren't interested in that balancing act. They'll keep their walled garden as isolated as they can.

    I've been developing an open source, distributed social networking software called Appleseed [], and honestly, I think the solution is going to have to come from an open source solution. As long as profit and market share are the main motivating factors of companies like Facebook, Friendster, Myspace, etc., there is absolutely no incentive to design things properly.

    Appleseed, and open source in general, has the freedom to be able to do things right. Create an interoperable network of social networking "nodes" which use a standard protocol to connect and interact. It's very simple, and the rules of business that these companies have to follow is the only thing keeping that from happening from within the proprietary world.

    I see it as analagous to the old days of email. Back in the day, you had Compuserve, you had AOL, and Prodigy, and other competing services that attempted to monopolize their user base by refusing interoperability. But eventually, they had no choice but to adopt standard E-Mail for their users.

    Let's face it, in this day and age, there is no single, good technological answer for why a user on MySpace can't send a message or a friend request to a user on Friendster, other than "We [myspace] doesn't want them to." Which is not an answer that people will tolerate for long.

    This is an itch, and open source (namely, Appleseed, since it seems like the solution which is the farthest along) is the only way to scratch it. []
  • by Martin Foster ( 4949 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:42PM (#17439456) Homepage
    When I started getting more active in online communities, I recall getting involved with a site named WBS. This system was massive, featuring hundreds of rooms and thousands of players at any given time. Of course, like most things during that day if it showed an inkling of success it was purchased by a large corporations and subsequently change in a way to sour the proverbial milk.

    Eventually, WBS was shut down as a web-based chat system and people were scattered to the wind. Some smaller sites opened up, some of which are still active today, but none of them ever captured the greatness that was prior to their inception and none worked well with one another. It was during I decided to kill a bit of time and code my own site, being throughoughly disgruntled by the administration of certain of those sites.

    The code I built grew in scope, adding features that had been lost when WBS fell, adding my own, expanding into galleries, forums and adding new features including a social network/dating profile addition. Naturally people started to notice and flocked to my site which generated a modest amount of traffic day in and day out.

    There was one difference however from my site and others who offered similiar services and that was code released under the GPL and made freely available. While the code to this day is still a bit difficult to install (tons of modules it depends on) other sites managed to get it going and it caused an unexpected side effect. Essentially it allowed other people to create a multitude of splinter sites, without having to know programming, database administration or even administration of a Unix based server.

    As a result of the GPL, these sites featured the same options, functionality, features as the main site with a possible lag in development/release time. However even when I closed my site and people moved on, I noticed that the splinter sites kept popping up with (specific niche needs) here and there using the code and the features that had been put into the code for years.

    Perhaps social networking is in for such a step. Essentially, a commodity-based approach to the product and through standards/common code allow people to find communities that match their needs. Sure it may not be a Lavalife, Facebook, MySpace in which everyone and their dog is there, but people do seem to find comfort in a little corner to the world being their own, a community of like-minded people a net centered neighbourhood.

    On a side note, I also found that once the code allowed for things such as import/export of handles and such, people tended to flow freely from one site to another. I wonder if implementing OpenID on the system would increase that movement?
  • by ZombieRoboNinja ( 905329 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:01AM (#17439590)
    My friends have occasionally directed me to their blogs and myspace/facebook pages over the years, and it's honestly been more of a hassle than I cared to deal with to sign up for each and every one just to see their crappy cell phone pics or whatever. The few I care enough to read regularly (like the blog of my friend in Japan) I just comment "anonymously" with my name in the comment. When MySpace wants me to login, I use BugMeNot to get a random login. Same for YouTube's oh-so-scandalous "mature"-tagged videos and the rest of that crap.

    The point? These sites aren't just "fatiguing" current users; they're scaring away potential users like me who aren't willing to sit through 5-10 minutes of entering (fake) personal information just to occasionally watch a 3-minute video clip or read a meandering myspace post written by a friend who's too lazy to just goddamn email me.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:13AM (#17439664) Homepage Journal
    Does Facebook have contact-list export capabilities back yet?

    Back a few years ago, there was a brief time when Facebook let you export your friends contact information as a VCard file. It was awesome -- you could download all of your friends' info to one file, and from there import it into Address Book, or the PIM of your choice. From there, if you had an intelligent enough system, you could have all their birthdays added to your calendar, phone numbers downloaded to your mobile, etc.

    They eliminated the feature pretty quickly after they implemented it -- I only got one data download out of it -- due to spam concerns, but I always thought that there had to be a way to balance spam resistance against the obvious benefits of such a system. (Of course, the obvious solution is to only 'friend' people you actually know and trust, and not just anybody who sends you a request...but any security method based on user intelligence is probably doomed to failure.)

    If they've re-enabled anything like that, I'd be very impressed. Facebook is by far my favorite 'social networking' site (which isn't saying much, really it's akin to saying 'Facebook doesn't make me want to gouge out my own eyes'), but it could certainly be more useful if the data, both simple contact information and more complex relationship-derived metadata, was exportable for external use and analysis.
  • by bwerdmuller ( 668895 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:21AM (#17439722) Homepage
    A common portal isn't an answer; it's a fudge that dodges the meat of the issue. However, maybe a bridging API service might be interesting? Something that can talk to the myriad APIs offered by Flickr, Facebook et al, all the while providing a consistent set of calls to application developers.

    The key isn't being able to access data from a consistent visual interface - it's being able to choose where your data is stored, and change both your mind and the nature of the data itself. If you've got a file, you should be able to choose which application it's opened with and where you save it; if you've got a profile or web data, you should be able to do the same.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:37AM (#17439902)
    i see weird confluences of unseen consequences coming out of the new plasticity of identity due to how the web works in the generation currently in their teens, making its way into their very psychology. in ways us ancient fossils in our 20s and 30s won't even understand

    I dunno. "Plasticity of identity" is all well and good until you go try and apply for a mortgage, or manage a career. Plastic people tend to get their attitudes readjusted real fast, when society eventually expects them to go through their stock of alternate personas and pick one.

    Besides, young people have always put on different faces, different attitudes, experimenting to see what kind of reaction they provoke. This social-networking fad is nothing more than an extension of the normal social exploration that we all go through. Yes, it may have unexpected effects but there's a reason why you mostly see young people playing with their profiles like this. It's because we eventually figure out that, underneath it all, we're just who we started out to be anyway. At that point most of us drop the pretense. It takes too much effort to maintain.
  • Re:Relevancy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:42AM (#17439954) Homepage Journal
    I can't speak for other social sites besides Facebook, because I can't stand them (too much dark-blue-on-black, and who thought embedding sounds in HTML was a feature?) but I think it's major function is just to act as distributed, collaborative address book. The demand for this sort of thing is pretty obvious and has been for some time -- the traditional finger command did some of it, including listing people's addresses (or office location), email, and other contact info. Unlike a static address book stored locally on your computer, the obvious advantage of a distributed system is that it doesn't require any effort to stay up-to-date.

    Frankly, as Facebook has gotten further and further away from its core focus of just providing a quick and easy way to find people's contact info that I haven't seen in a while, it's become less interesting to me. The expansion of social websites, to the point where they try to do everything (how long until they fulfill some sort of website corollary to Zawinski's Law and begin offering email?) may in fact be their downfall. But I suppose it's hard to monetize a big distributed address book, or so they think.
  • Re:Relevancy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @03:21AM (#17441042)
    Because you need to have a life to get social networking sites.

    This is true. For years I was part of the "myspace is lame" crowd. This, of course, comming from someone with so small a social life that not having a cellphone has never inconvienced me. But then, not long ago, I wanted to get in touch with some old high-school friends and the only way I could find to do it was to, rather grudgingly, set up a myspace account.
    Not long after, independent of myspace, I managed to find a cool hangout in meatspace where I started to have actual social interaction, and myspace suddenly seems a bit less lame 'cause I can add these people online and be able to contact them if I feel like it without feeling like I'm imposing on their time with a phone call.
    Then not long ago, some punk bands were playing at said hangout. The bassist of one was cute, but I only managed to say hi and, as usual, I didn't have the balls to chat her up and get her number. I go home, find her myspace page via her band's page, friend her, she remembered me, we get to talking, now we're dating. Suddenly, despite the horde of losers present, myspace seems pretty cool to me.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling