I have been experimenting with Facebook for the past few weeks and am impressed with their platform approach. However, their idea of “open” and my idea of “open” are not the same — more on that in a minute. Yes, Facebook is very tone-deaf when it comes to anything outside the sphere of student-life. However, Linkedin — which is very tuned into the corporate work place — is tone deaf on the “alive” part of what makes Facebook so compelling.
If Linkedin “opened” their platform to developers and also opened their platform in a way that allowed me to use my identity there to serve as my identity across a myriad of online networks, I would likely gravitate in their direction.
In the past few days, I have bounced my contact lists against the databases of Facebook and Linkedin. While I was amazed so many people have Facebook accounts, I was astounded with the even greater numbers of individuals who have set up a Linkedin account. As my contacts are greatly skewed to business ones, I guess this makes sense. I just didn’t know many people who aren’t geeks would have an account. That said, I was also interested to see that many of the Linkedin accounts of my email contacts had less than five direct connections, so I’m sure many were surprised to remember they had an account when I emailed them.
One of these social networking services — Linkedin, Facebook, Player X — is going to one-day discover the missing ingredient of what it will take to move social media from a novelty to the level of “must-have,” like, say, having an email account. (Facebook is reaching that level among high school and college students.)
Let’s stick with that email metaphor a second: therein lies the problem Linkedin, Facebook, et al, must face in finding the secret sauce necessary for success. Like with e-mail, I don’t want my identity online residing at someplace called: www.linkedin.com/in/rexhammock. (However, I must say, that beats: http://www.facebook.com/p/Rex_Hammock/501535608.)
As with my blog and email, I want the ability to have the hub of my social network — my online identity — to be at the address of my choosing — and if I don’t like that address, I want to have the ability to move it. As with a cell-phone, I want to have the ability to change carriers. I also want to be able to display anything from those networks — my Linkedin connections, my Facebook groups — at that place. I want it to work just like it works with phones: I can call someone using any cell-phone or land-line carrier, almost anywhere in the world. That’s the way social networking should work, also.
I remember when Compuserve e-mail only worked with others who had a Compuserve account. Or AOL. Or, well, you get the idea. The Internet — and that “@myemailaddress.com” was about allowing connections to take place among individuals no matter what trailhead they used to hike onto the network.
As great as the Facebook platform is — and one of these days, I’ll explain in detail exactly what makes it so great — it won’t break through to the other side until I can have my powered-by Facebook identity residing at rexhammock.com and allow people who may not be powering their identity with Facebook to interact with me — to join my groups, to poke me, whatever — in the same way those who use another service for e-mail can reach me.
But hey, that’s just a user talking.
Later: Robert Scoble posted some video about Plaxo 3.0 that suggests it may also be a contender in the “tying it all together” arena. I know it has lots of business users — or did when it was a desktop application, as I would receive update requests when it didn’t work on a Mac, back in the day. I’ll not be holding my breathe.