So what is the deal with Friendster, Linked In, Plaxo, and Orkut? Is there a business model that really works behind all of these networks? What services will they sell to create value add around their networks? How will privacy of people's information be maintained? Are these systems designed correctly? Does it really make sense to add value to a network of this type?
John Shewchuk, MS Architect, and I exchanged some email on this topic today. He said that he thinks technically this infrastructure should be decentralized. Is Plaxo heading this direction? Who is going to write the WSDL to standardize the interfaces on this new era of Peer to Peer human-networking? What is this brave new world called? Microsoft demonstrated some cool technology in the domain of social circles at the PDC last year during the MS Research keynote. Longhorn will have some of these networking capabilities natively in the platform. How will this factor in?
What I think is hilarious is that I signed up for these networks because I got tired of entering in my information time after time for folks asking me to join their circle or update my address card. I didn't actively seek any of these networks out. I simply didn't want to disappoint folks that I knew.
Just for fun (and sanity), I have decided I will not invite anyone into my networks and only accept invites from others. So far I have seen over 100 or so contacts that I could invite that are on these networks. I guess like a high school reunion, it is fun to find an old familiar face (or rather email name). It would be an enormous amount of my time to try and send invite emails to everyone in my inner circle. I would be desperately intimidated by the idea of reconnecting with all of these folks in the next week, even month. Time is my most valuable commodity. Right now, my network on linked in is a grand total of 14 folks and 1 person on Orkut. I guess to the world as a whole, I am not the popular kid today ;). I guess if I was looking for new job opportunities, traversing these networks might be of minor interest.
So what is the 'real' value proposition? Is there really value in me telling everyone publicly who I am connected to? My connections are part of my strengths. I have had numerous folks in the past leverage me for free consulting on new technology innovations, startup ideas, market landscaping, etc. Is the awareness going to land me new opportunities? Is this yet another extension of your resume like searching for someone by name on Google?
I know a lot of people that are already using Friendster for dating and to expand their social circles. Kind of shocking really... will this replace the anonymous internet dating sites that match.com and others use?
Has anyone really read the privacy statements? I read Friendsters. Not bad... But it really does leave a lot of room toleverage of your contact information to promote services from their company. How are these networks making money, how will they grow?
Lots of questions... I guess a bit of research on the business prospectus for these types of companies will tell me more.