Google ponders adding social networking features to Google Reader. Yahoo is weighing its social networking stance as CEO Jerry Yang cooks up the company's strategy. And every big Web player is trying to figure out what to do about social media.
It's not an easy question to answer. On the surface, perhaps Yahoo should just buy Facebook. But as Philipp Lenssen's post on a leaked Google video shows perhaps it makes more sense to build social features into products.
Is social networking a business or a feature? If you're Facebook and MySpace social networking is clearly a business that generates a ton of ad inventory. But there are only so many of those success stories. For giants like Yahoo and Google it may make a lot more sense to build social features into existing products. You can still generate the excess ad inventory and target better.
Another argument for building social networking features into an existing portfolio: What happens when social profiles are portable from sites like MySpace to Facebook to LinkedIn or any other site?
I honestly don't know if social networking is much more than a feature over the long run. My own behavior indicates that a) I'm either not social; or b) there's not enough on Facebook to keep me interested in the long run. It may be some combination of both, but I'm not joining any other social networking sites--despite dozens of invites to join new sites like Quechup.com.
Bottom line: Social networking fatigue exists. And I don't think the answer is building more social networking sites.