In Read/WriteWeb's 2007 Web Predictions, Richard MacManus et al. suggested (albeit slightly tongue in cheek) that we might see a social network backlash, with users deciding that participation in social networks is consuming too much of their time.
While social networks dominated 2006, we wonder if the amount of time an average user spends online will start to negatively impact on their social lives in 2007 and lead to a downturn. Could social networks prove to be anti-social? ;-)
Whilst history tells us that MySpace could easily lose its novelty, as younger users move onto the next cool site, I think social networking sites in general will remain popular for the foreseeable future. Not (as strange as it sounds) primarily because of their networking functionality, but because they provide many users with their first foray into the world of personal publishing. How many people have created a MySpace page, who would never dream of starting a blog?
Social networks need to open up
Another driving force for social networks in 07, will be the increasing number of niche networks which are highly targeted to particular interest groups or social activities. The question that still remains however, is how many social networks any one user is likely to join and remain active in? This is where Read/WriteWeb's prediction of fatigue has more weight. Unless the time required to sign-in, post to, and maintain profiles across each network is reduced, it will be impossible for most users to participate in multiple sites for very long. Therefore I think it will be essential for social networks to open up, through embracing open standards which allow for greater interoperability between networks. Although as Read/WriteWeb also predicts, MySpace will probably be the last to do so.
Related post: Do ordinary users care about data portability?