Social Graphs and Online Identity: What’s next?

Here’s some good questions: How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many on LinkedIn? How many on various IM services? What about Twitter? If your answer is the same for all these questions, I’d be very surprised.

Jeremiah Owyang wrote on this very issue back in November of 2007, and he was suggesting OpenSocial as the most likely solution moving forward. Facebook Connect launched a year later in November 2008.

Fast forward to 2010… Facebook now has over 350 million active users. MySpace claims over 76 million in the US alone. Twitter has over 50 million accounts. And the “old” social networks (e-mail & IM) claim millions of users as well (Windows Live 375M+). Each of these networks still maintain their own versions of social graphs, and none of them will actively “share” information with one another.

Today, I ran across a startup called Soocial, which claims to sync your contacts (read: social graphs) across multiple networks. WE’RE SAVED, right? Not really… The service requires client software on any phone to sync, client software on a PC to sync, and despite claiming to be “hassle-free”, is too much for most users to set up.

So, what will it take to really win in this space?

  1. Partnership at a high-level – Execs at Facebook, Microsoft, Google, AIM, LinkedIn, etc need to be willing to share social graph data with outside sources. Remember, the entire purpose of social networks is to publish and share information with others. If the data is already public, why not make it accessible?
  2. Constant Sync – Today’s sync tools are largely based around “importing” your contacts in a one-time data comparison. A true winner will maintain a synchronized relationship of data, pushing and pulling data as it changes across the network
  3. Published Contact InfoGoogle Profiles & Plaxo  are a great start of maintaining active contact information for an individual. The next step is providing this level of detail across multiple networks, maintaining a canonical contact card that can change whenever any linked service changes.

Some early attempts:

Further Reading:

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