As the stock market roller coaster continues, the concept of social capital accrued via social networks is starting to become an important commodity. People are flocking to Facebook and other social networks, partly to experience the latest online trend and for those who latch on to a particular network, to build up their social capital via making connections.
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has said that Facebook's main professional value is "building social capital" through interactions, including email via Facebook, with 'friends' that can result lead to business opportunities. Dennis Howlett has covered the social network and business intersection issues in his Irregular Enteprise blog. It's early in the game, but it's not hard to imagine how Facebook could adopt some of LinkedIn's features, or vice versa.
Much of the discussion lately touches on that fact that the development of one's social capital is contingent it being locked up by Facebook. LinkedIn or other social 'utilties.' services.
In a recent Wired article, Scott Gilbertson, protested the lack openness in Facebook, namely the social graph, the circle of friends and relationships data.
When entering data into Facebook, you're sending it on a one-way trip. Want to show somebody a video or a picture you posted to your profile? Unless they also have an account, they can't see it. Your pictures, videos and everything else is stranded in a walled garden, cut off from the rest of the web.
Like locked cell phones and copy-protected music, Facebook is on the wrong side of the open-network debate. Facebook is a sealed bubble. Facebook users are locked into Facebook, just as iTunes locks music fans to Apple's iPod.
“We are pushing boundaries of what closed and open mean. It’s very necessary for people to take identities with them and supplement with content from elsewhere," Moskovitz said at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit 07 last week. He didn't offer any insight as to what Facebook has in mind regarding making the friends network, the social graph, transportable beyond exposing it to Facebook-compliant applications.
“I’m not sure if it will happen or not. It’s fairly complicated and there are privacy issues, but interesting concept,” said MySpace’s Travis Katz, senior vice president and general manager of MySpace International, regarding making its data transportable.
Plaxo recently launched its Pulse service that is more permeable. Your friends network can be walled off. Anything put into Plaxo can be retrieved and used elsewhere, and any data made public will be accessible across the wider internet: Viewers will not need a Plaxo account. The service will be rather limited initially, but it's a step in the right direction.
History will prove that by freeing the end-user’s data, a distributed mesh of inter-connecting social networks and blogging platforms will create an ecosystem in which ALL software vendors and plaforms can participate in- equally.
That’s what’s wrong with MyBlogLog, Twitter and Facebook. They’re coolio platforms, but they’re closed.
The people will eventually come. That’s for sure. Humans are migratory beasts and as soon as they figure out that they’ve been locked-in-they’ll rebel.
At this point, the masses haven't taken to the virtual streets to break down the walled gardens. The information superhighway is broken up into islands where millions of people gather and associate, separated from other islands by design.
Today, people are mostly content, experimenting with the more civilized walled gardens that aggregate information and friends and bank all the personal data and social capital. The revolution won't happen until social capitalists realize that the capitalists--Facebook, Google, MySpace (News Corp.), etc.-- shouldn't have too much control over their digital lives.
BusinessWeek: Fogeys Flock to Facebook
Nick O'Neill: Facebook Will Open, Let’s Start the Movement