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Has Social Networking Changed Forever?

Are the British are more sociable? Or maybe we just prefer the informal, information-sharing type of socialisation characterised by social networking. Check out these stats from Comscore:


Not only does a far higher proportion (78% compared to a European average of 56%) of the British population participate in social networking, but we outperform our European counterparts on every other measure including time spent, pages and visits per user. Heavy UK users of social networks spend an average of 22 hours a month on networks, making an average of 71 visits.

By the end of this year, global active participation in social networking is predicted (according to Datamonitor) to reach 230m. Membership growth is expected to peak by 2009 and level out by 2012 (earlier in the US) with adoption curves varying dramatically by region but ultimately with Asia Pacific accounting for 35% of global social networking memberships, EMEA 28%, North America 25%, The Caribbean and Latin America 12%.

So critical mass is already a reality. And adoption continues to grow, albeit at differing rates by market. But I do wonder whether we have just turned a pretty major corner which will accelerate it beyond all predictions, across all markets. Google’s launch of OpenSocial. Defined as a set of common APIs that work on many different social websites around the three network pillars of profile information, friends information and activities, Open Social allows developers to learn one API and then write a social application for any of those sites. Now that most of the major networks have signed up (including now MySpace), and with Facebook rumoured to be not very far behind, this has the potential to be transformational. Gone are the restrictions that prevent the easy flow of information and communication between networks. The potential for network effects just got a whole lot bigger. Particularly if, as Karl speculates, this could metamorphose networks into the default method of communication for business as well as personal:

"What if
enterprises started using this as the basis for their own social
networks? Imagine companies that started to run their businesses on
social applications. Sure email is the lingua franca still, but wikis,
blogs, and the concept of social networking are changing the way
businesses are working."

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