A funny post on the KM4Dev network, which suggested that "maybe all these social community sites could be merged into one called, say, MyFlickeringFace", caught my attention today.
In fact, considerations regarding a global meta-network, which consolidates all existing social networking platforms, are already under way. And the big IT players like Microsft, Google, etc. are very eager to get the lead in this. There was an interesting article in SPIEGEL Online this week (unfortunately only in German) which tries to grasp what's happening there at the moment.
For me as an indivdual user this is very ambivalent. One one hand, I hate to have to maintain all these different applications and accounts in parallel (Private email, Google, del.icio.us, facebook, xing, skype, youtube, flickr and many more specialised portals and communities) and desperately long for a one-stop shop where several (or all) of the above services are integrated and ALL the people I want to liaise with can be found. Competition among service providers in this regard seems counterproductive for the user, as he always has to maintain several incomplete networks in parallel and invite people from one network also in the other etc. One part of me therefore says we all should only have one global network, in which we can chose those applications and subgroups which we need.
However, the other part of me is fully aware that - as the examples of Microsoft and Google shows - service provider monopolies are to be avoided! One single global network fully controlled by a business player is a horror scenario with regard to privacy, data security and freedom of expression, and includes the severe danger of misuse for political or business objectives.
I really can't think of a satisfying solution for this. Can anybody else? Maybe a global standard for social networking applications is necessary. But then the question remains: What kind of administrative service is trustworthy enough to maintain and store the data of connected users? And what mechanisms can be put in place to effectively prevent the exploitation of user profiles by retrieving and connecting data from all the different applications in this unified network?