In the social networking arena today, when Facebook sneezes, the entire blogosphere stands at attention. The latest news is that Facebook, as expected, will let its members organize friends into groups, such as business, family and school, enhance the worbvk profile and provide controls for who can see what (see Techmeme). It's a logical next step now that Facebook membership is not school related in the majority. A grouping feature also puts Facebook on a trajectory that intersects with the business social networks, such as LinkedIn and Xing.
It's not clear if Facebook wants to be all things to all people, or if it will morph into a set of interconnected services to address different aspects of members' digital lives. If Facebook is simply mirroring what goes on in peoples' "real" lives, as founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg likes to say, then some an overlap between personal and professional makes sense.
We are at the stage when the temptation to copy what is working for the most successful social networks, as a way to expand membership and prevent member leakage, is peaking.
Facebook is dipping a toe into the territory discovered by LinkedIn and Xing. LinkedIn just announced that it will allow members to upload photos for their profiles and set controls for who can see them. It's akin to a resume with photos, not a social network with your vacation or party photos. It a minor step, but LinkedIn apparently wants to stay a clean, well lighted business space for its 14 million members.
That said, LinkedIn doesn't want to be isolated or ignore that fact that its members are active in Facebook and other social networks. In June, LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman told me that over next 9 months his social networking service would deliver APIs for developers and create a way for users who spend more time socially in Facebook to get LinkedIn notifications.
Xing, which has about 4 million members mostly in Europe and Asia (Xing's numbers include its sister Spanish sites eConozco and Neurona), of its business-oriented social network, has taken its service a step further than LinkedIn. Xing profiles can now also contain personal, not just professional, information.
A new "motivations" field lets Xing members indicate why they use the service, providing more information so that members can approach each other in a more target way. Xing also introduced a feature that allows users to include links to their other Web profiles and services, such as ZoomInfo, Flickr, Digg, Wikipedia, Twitter, Yelp and Amazon. However, Xing doesn't offer an option to list Facebook, LinkedIn or even MySpace, Bebo and Orkut profiles. Not including those competitors doesn't make sense, given the idea is to allow people to include other profiles. If the user, or member, is at the center of a social network, then allowing them to include their external profiles and links without limitation should be the norm, not to mention that they should "own" their profile data, social graph and activity stream.