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We have too many social networks

by Kyluke McDougall on 21 May 20157 min read

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, MySpace (still), LinkedIn, Email, Pinterest, Flickr, 500px, Soundcloud, etc., etc...

There are too many, we don't need another one. We need fewer social media networks with more targeted usages and broader reaches. For instance. We could take the entire list above and condense it into 3 different categories.

Every app these days wants it's own ecosystem rather than developing methods of growing existing social media networks and expanding on sub-ecosystems. I'm talking about a concept similar to the Google+ circles, but in the background, on a developer and not user level.

  • Complex Social Networks (e.g. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn)
  • Simple Social Networks (e.g. Twitter, Email)
  • Media (Picture, Video, Audio based) Social Networks (e.g. Instagram, Flickr, 500px, Soundcloud)

For instance, I make use of Soundhound. It wants me to log in and use it's own history, location, search and friends system. I can of course log in using a Facebook account and "connect" with my friends, but the data still resides with Soundhound, not Facebook.

Now privacy issues aside for a moment. I am looking for cohesion. Logging in with a Facebook account into Soundhound should automatically pull through my music interests, my friends, my search history etc and allow me to sync back any new songs or artists I find to a list on Facebook, or even Google+. It doesn't really matter which one of the "Complex Social Media" networks are used.

You should have one set of data which grows and gets curated as you grow it.

Well, to begin with we need a core. A base to start off with. Something that could tie our friends, interests, geo-based interests, etc under one umbrella. Like a data-house which contains all the data relating to "you". This would be one of the "Complex Social Networks". This would be our own personal "Command Centre" for our data. In here we would find things like: From there on up, we start adding layers to the equation. This is where the customisability aspect comes into play. Our "Simple Social Networks" or "Media Social Networks". Would you like to be able to share status updates, photos you've taken or music you've produced with friends. Then geo-tag your posts, group and search for specific topics and so on and so forth? Well, then link Twitter, Soundcloud and Flickr/Instagram to your core. The Twitter/Soundcloud/Flickr/Instagram application would remain identical to the one you're used to and would operate in the same way, however, your tweets are stored in the core "Complex Social Network".

So what do I propose?

The Core

  • All of our connected Layers (Accounts, additional applications linked to the core)
  • Friends, Networks, Groups. Our "People Hub"
  • Communities you're a member of. Online & physical communities like boat clubs etc
  • Media you've shared and curated. Your family photos and videos. Music you've produced or artists you've followed. Films you have been involved in, online video's that you have commented on etc
  • Whatever else you can think of.

The Layers

How about joining a specific interest group? Google+'s Circle concept is brilliant for this. You could curate and join specific twitter like groups which could be closed off, individual islands or an open community.

Each layer would represent an additional interface into the core data. However, the data resides in one location. You could always log into your core social media network and have access to all posts from all the various layers that you have added.

Layers would include applications like:

This, opens the world up to some very interesting opportunities. Let me expand on that.

Why does this deserve special attention? Well, you may have noticed that I haven't included this in my initial list and it gets a special heading. Why? I think it's because these guys get it already.

  • Twitter for sharing posts and keeping up to date with family, friends and groups/organisations
  • Instagram/Flickr/500px for photos that you would like to either keep privately, showcase as a portfolio or just albums you would like your friends to see.
  • Google+ to join groups and communities around the world
  • LinkedIn to connect and separate your business from your personal information. Posting could still happen in Twitter but LinkedIn could be used to ring-fence certain posts if you so choose.


Short: They're not looking for people checking into places or creating maps. They're looking to expand and personalise the existing mapping systems. They want to be the personalised layer on top of a map. If you and I look at the same area of a map, it should show us different interest points. Not at random but it should highlight Pizza places for me and Family restaurants for you. Why? Because last week I went to Domino's, the week before Pizza hut and for my vacation in Thailand last year, I managed to dig up some pizza places. Clearly I like Pizza. The same concept applies to you. It knows you have children and their currently on vacation. ie, you can go with them to a restaurant for lunch.

They don't create maps, they leave that up to the big 3, Google, Apple and Microsoft. They just provide the personalised layer, or contextual results, to you as the user.

The power behind this is that the results or suggestions I receive are what I am looking for.

It would allow these layers to communicate with each other intelligently. For instance, let's take the pizza example above. Let's say you're currently sitting outside, on the balcony of a friends place, looking over town and sipping a drink with your 4 best mates. The sun is just setting and you guys are getting hungry. One of you suggest you eat out. Here the negotiations begin. Where do you eat?

Example 1

Now, you could open up Foursquare and do a search for possible places to eat out. Now, you could expect it, with reason, to give you places where you could get some Pizza. Or, it would understand that you friend tweeted out this morning that he really craved a good burger and another friend already visited Domino's last night. Based on that and the fact that one of your friends is allergic to fish, it could find all the best steak and burger joints within 20 kilometres because it also knows you're low on petrol.

You want to take a girl out for the first time. You don't really know her. You can't go and stalk her social media profiles to find out about her (also, not a good idea in general anyway) but you would like to find something that you would both enjoy.

Example 2

You pop open Foursquare and do a search for places near her apartment, or pick up point. The search is done on one of the upper layers ("The Simple Social Network") but the computation takes place on the "Complex Social Network". It can go and find out that you both like sushi, you haven't had in a while and would enjoy some wine during or afterwards. Both of you seem to regularly take walks or morning jogs along the wharf. Luckily that's only 10 km away. Why not go find some really classy, yet affordable places along the wharf for you to enjoy. This could also open up the possibility to go for a walk afterwards, which both of you will most likely enjoy.

Just think about the possibilities that we could open up to the business industry and to individuals. For a system to understand you and work along side you in a personal manner. We are already seeing companies moving towards this. Google, Microsoft, Foursquare, Twitter and even Facebook are each understanding this from their own angle. The only thing missing here is the integration.

Let us not forget the interesting new questions that we get to ask.

  • Where is our data?
  • What is our data?
  • Is it us?
  • Is it who we are?
  • Can we define ourselves with data?
  • What is privacy?
  • Who can do data management?
  • Should a country, organisation or group manage this?
  • Would it be run like a government?
  • What legalities should be put in place?
  • What happens in the event of a data breach?

More questions just lead to greater innovations.