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At some point in the future we are all going to be signed up for at least 5-10 social networks apiece. (Some of us are well past that number now.)  This fact has become inevitable as more and more companies and organizations begin to integrate social networking into their websites. Soon we will have a social network for everything:

  • Your general personal sphere (MySpace, Facebook, et al.)
  • Your professional sphere (LinkedIn)
  • An employer created network(internal and external facing communities)
  • And education based (your continuing education or your child's school)
  • And the fast growing Niche based (with sites focused on entertainment, news, shopping, finance, home management, etc)
Being part of these communities is going to become important in order to manage the latest communication and information in our everyday lives. With all of these networks out there the big question is how we can manage all of the activity, data, and logins. Allowing us to participate while managing our time effectively and not burning out in trying to maintain all of these profiles.
There are solutions that are being developed and deployed to help users manage all of these networks.

1) Data Portability- The ability for users to share their content and data across multiple social media sites is encouraging. Of course right now there is no clear standard as of yet but the data portability project is working towards specifications.

Last week facebook, MySpace, and google all announced their own data portability efforts. In reality these companies are racing to be your preferred data home.  Each of these projects will allow smaller sites to use their log in credentials to populate your information on new participating sites that you are working with. Eventually though we will have a list of standards and people will have options to choose as their "home base" of information.

The days of joining a network or site and having to fill out all your information will be done in the near future. Also we will no longer have to upload content onto various websites and networks. For example if we have one picture that we want to share on multiple sites and networks we can upload them to one account and share them over multiple systems.

2)    Open ID- Besides having to worry about populating our profiles and sharing our content we have to keep track of multiple user names over various networks. OpenId is a project that is working on correcting that. Users are getting a single digital identify to manage and maintain, allowing people to have a central set of credentials to control and manage.

While the first two solutions seem to be on the right path in making our lives easier the third is something that I think has a lot of potential but hasn't really been developed yet.

3)    Better aggregation of data- Currently we can follow what our friends are doing via multiple types of activity streams: blogcatalog, friendfeed, 8hands, and various other methods. None of these though integrate the direct messaging features of social networks. While we can be alerted of comments and messages via e-mail or desktop clients, one single program needs to come along and not only integrate activity feeds but messaging as well.

This is the one hurdle that is probably going to be the toughest to overcome because of monetization, traffic, and programming issues. But I believe at some point we will see some type of full aggregation of all the data and messaging on these social networks.

In the end the evolution of the social network is going to boil down to openness and aggregation. I am excited to see what the next few years bring.

What do you see in our future?
(Besides flying cars.)

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