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Social discovery: the next step in online social networks

A recent article by Geoff Cook, the co-founder of myYearbook.com, highlights one of the recent issues at the forefront of online social networking: the declining success of Google+. Prior to its release weeks ago, many internet users (including myself) thought that Google+ would become the “next generation of social networking”, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. “The reason is fairly obvious,” says Cook. “Google+ is meant to connect you with people you know, just like Facebook. It’s an attempt to compete on features and UI in a business dominated by network effects and switching costs. There is no way to beat Facebook at its own game, even with all the resources in the world at your disposal.” And what Cook says is true. Even with Google’s outrageous internet popularity, entrance (and subsequent withdrawal) into the mobile phone market, and the myriad other services that they offer, social networking seems to be the egg that Google just cannot crack.

Though Google+ has had apparently little success in overtaking Facebook’s popularity, Cook says that the social networking market is still growing – but in a different direction. Services such as Facebook, Myspace, and Google+ connect you with people you know, but they connect you with a generally closed-off social network. The “battlefront is social networking”, according to Cook, “is not connecting you to people you already know, but in connecting you to people you want to know.” This relatively new and uncommon form of social networking, called “Social Discovery”, could be the next step in online social networks. Facebook serves its purpose for now, but as people become more familiar with online networking and communication, it might not be uncommon for internet users to seek new friendships on the web.

Cook goes on to make the important distinction that “Social discovery isn’t online dating”. Online dating is a service – people go to find a partner, and then leave. Social discovery is a more dynamic and constant social network where people meet to form online relationships with others who have similar interests, ideas, etc. One potential reason for social discovery’s lack of mainstream popularity is the stigma attached to making friends on the internet. A friend on the internet, most people argue, leaves something to be desired from a friend in real life. Others argue that social discovery can lead to closer friendships than would otherwise form, as people can meet based on very similar personalities and interests.

Only time will tell how social discovery will evolve and potentially surpass standard online networking. The current market for social discovery is already expanding, with millions of dollars in investments being made on new projects and new mobile apps for social discovery constantly entering the market. Perhaps soon society will be willing to poke its head out of its closed-off Facebook friend networks and meet new people through social discovery. Geoff Cook certainly seems to think so.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-solves-a-problem-no-one-has-2011-9

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