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Monday, November 30, 2009

Does anyone really want to converge mobile social networks?

I'm losing count of the times I've heard people come out with a variation on the theme of:

"Here's a single piece of software that aggregates all your social networks into one convenient application or screen".

However, I most certainly have not lost count of the number of times I've heard people tell me:

"I wish I had a single piece of software that aggregates all my social networks"....

....because the total number of people who've told me that is a big round zero.

Am I missing something, or does this Emperor really have no clothes? This problem just doesn't seem to exist - and indeed potentially it introduces massive risks to the average end user, who is probably not as stupid as many of the proponents of the concept seem to think.

Why would I want my operator / device vendor / OS provider / application shop to act as a front end and filter for my other services? I specifically don't want my contacts or addressbook converged - I keep separate lists for very good reasons. I don't want any one organisation to be able to aggregate all the info about my multiple online personae - I'm very happy having my LinkedIn and FaceBook profiles as separate as possible, and neither linked into my Yahoo contacts or Skype friends, nor my handset's contact list. The aggregation point is in my head, which is pretty good at multi-tasking.

All the people I know who are active on multiple networks do so for very good reasons, usually that they want to segregate separate groups of individuals. I do the same with IM services, using Yahoo, Skype and Facebook messaging for different sets of work / personal / family contacts. I don't want a multi-headed IM client.

Plus, most of the "converged networks" businesses seem to be predicated about adding another layer of lock-in or advertising, often with some spurious marketing verbiage and trust and security. Surely one of the nicest things about widgets and mobile web applications is that they can *diverge* easily and simply? It just strikes me that attempting to shoe-horn all these disparate networks and communications methods together risks destroying the unique "social value" of each one, not adding to it.


Anonymous said...

Dean, I agree with your view here.

What's your take on Good's acquisition (~June 09) of Intercasting and their Anthem platform - integrates social networks?

Dean Bubley said...

I hadn't heard of that one to be honest. A quick look at their website - seems to look like a reasonable way to integrate services into featurephones out-of-the-box.

But increasingly with decent widget frameworks or proper smartphones, you're always certain to get a much better user experience with each service's own custom application.

I already think that Facebook-on-mobile isn't as rich as Facebook-on-a-PC - and I can't believe that Brand X Facebook client is ever going to be better than the "real" in-house one.

As it gets ever-easier to get "the real thing", why would you want to see Facebook or Twitter or whatever through a "Good" filter?

Hans said...

Hi Dean-

I just want to voice one exception (I agree with you that most people like these persona's separate):

I am a musician who finds it tedious to hit all my social networks on a regular basis. As someone with probably a greater interest than most in seeming "active" I think one central place to send out status updates or upload my latest pictures or videos would be great. Now maybe it doesn't exist in the way I'd find it most useful, but I think that people trying to keep up a public profile for whatever reason could benefit from doing it in one place.

Davide said...

Dean, I agree with your view as well. Perhaps a centralized application may help to avoid having to login with different usernames/passwords to all the different services. Something on the lines as the Liberty Alliance Project tried to do some years ago.

I think the concept of universal identity authenticated by a certified authority and that can be reused in different services is something I really miss and would like to have.