Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Google Drive: Cure for Social Network Fatigue

In recent years, it seems social networking sites arise and fall in ever-shortening intervals. Perhaps for the newest crop of teens and tweens, this frenetic pace of technology migration makes sense - MySpace has become old news, passé or too mainstream. These users are able to flitter (with their offline social networks) to whichever service or platform is a la mode.

But then there are the rest of us. Jon Udell wrote a great piece yesterday on social network fatigue. It is clear that advertisers and technology venture capitalists may bend over backwards to find the next big thing, the next killer social platform, for the majority of technology users and practitioners it is increasingly difficult to navigate and discern what these sites can offer in terms of either connection or investment (whether personal or institutional). In the non-profit and cultural sectors, more times than not, this quandary has translated into a certain level of paralysis when considering social networks. Yet, the sheer size of these networks make them impossible to ignore (as does the general trajectory of Web 2.0 adoption in the last two years).

What is missing, as Mr. Udell points out, is the convergence across networks. Each user can only manage a finite number of profiles, bookmarks, sites and blogs. And, given the distribution and varying layers of log-in and personally identifiable information that exist for each site, the onus for managing the varying social networks falls on the user. Not a particularly user-friendly scene. There is no unified credential or login management resource to make using the various platforms easier. And while some writers have called for greater interoperability between sites - all signs point to a more to monolithic rather than distributed solution.

The rumors of the Google Drive reflect a possible form and structure for what the next (perhaps final?) step may be in integrating social networks. More information Google already has Blogger and YouTube under its belt - the leveraged acquisition of Facebook, Friendster or LinkedIn (or some other social content site - Del.icio.us? Digg?) when paired with a personal storage drive, would represent a wholly trinity of Web 2.0 resources. Not to mention the economic enginge already represented by Google's search services.

Currently, users, technology nor law seem quite prepared for a Google drive. There are still too many privacy and copyright/licensing considerations that need to be defined before this endeavor could be successful. If and when this does happen though, I believe it ultimately will help purveyors of cultural content to better exist and serve in the digital world. Finally, there would be a single place and standard to apply in making culture available to as many individuals as possible. Resource deployment, platform interoperability and content management would have a single umbrella standard for which to aim, and thereby hit the mark with a greater number of users.

Information users (and managers) of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your social network fatigue!

14 comments:

Lost Wizard of the Gorn Empire said...

You make a strong case for unification of form and factor. I agree that the central market will clamor towards a conglomeration of services provided by one platform, the same way it did in the desktop o/s world.

That being said, all of the "Web 2.0" paradigm shift came from people finding new/better ways to innovate on what everyone else was doing. Flickr was not so radically different from Snapfish or Kodak Galleries, but it is different enough to twist the problem of "putting photos online" in a whole new direction.

I think that gdrive may provide a broad enough base that people will look to innovate on it as a platfrom, rather than rebuild from the ground up. That being said, there will always be someone who wants to change the status quo so radically that the only way to achieve it is to create your own new standard.

Look at livejournal, and the fact that deadjournal was created, and thrived, over something as trivial as how many icons you could associate with an account. I would argue that whatever Google decides is low-key to develop from a software-feature standpoint, there will be a community/user out there willing to fill the gap until it becomes priority.

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