The news this morning that Facebook will soon enable people to syndicate upadates from pages from Facebook to Twitter got me thinking that as social networks become more open ownership of the social graph is getting less important.
In the first phase of social networking everything was closed, meaning that if you wanted to network with your buddies you all had to be on the same URL for both publishing and consumption. It was this being closed that put the ‘network’ into social network and had investors theorising that as in traditional comms and more recently at Skype Metcalfe’s law would kick in making the big socnets much more powerful than the smaller ones leading to the creation of some huge winners.
The emergence of Myspace and Facebook validated this thesis to an extent but as these sites have become more open the network effects are getting weaker.
As a publisher I want to reach the largest audience I can and make my stuff available wherever people want to read it. When I write a blog post it goes out on RSS, and my status is updated on Twitter and Facebook with the title and a link back to the post. This takes advantage of my social graphs that are owned and resident in Twitter and Facebook without me actually going to these sites.
Moreover you can pick up those updates via third party clients without visiting Facebook or Twitter, consuming the content without delivering any value to the site where the social graph lives.
The same is true for my Twitter updates which I make without going to twitter.com and can be read on Facebook, via the weekly digest on this blog and in third party clients.
The upshot of all this that value doesn’t accrue to the ‘owner’ of the social graph every time it is used and hence the value of these sites is less about the number of registered members and more about the amount of time people spend on them creating and consuming content.