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Social networking not dead?

Awhile back I wrote a never-posted entry entitled, "Die Social Networks, Die!" In it I ranted about how bad the current social networking sites are, and how their craptastic offerings may be so spectacular so as to delay the adoption of social networking technologies in the mainstream (i.e. when a good social networking service finally did come along, it would get no traction due to the burnout suffered at the hands of Orkut and Friendster).

I'm glad I didn't post that, because I think I was wrong. The site that's been winning me over, ever so slowly, is Flickr. It's not a social networking site, per se. I think it wanted to be in the beginning, if my vague memories from many months ago serve correct.

To me, social networking is like wireless. Wireless attracts me to a coffee shop, but my main purpose is to buy coffee, and the coffee better be good, and the wireless better be free. When Flickr initially looked to me like an flashy social networking app with photo-sharing thrown in, it wasn't that interesting to me, because the social networking seemed more important than the photo management.

Now, however, they've worked really hard on making the photo management work really well with both cameraphones as well as my desktop. According to bp the cameraphone integration is one of the best out there, and my experiences with the Windows Explorer integration have been great as well. They've also just released a new Organizr, which rivals desktop photo organizers, and they are part of the new wave of organizers (del.icio.us, gmail) that uses tagging instead of folders. Another great feature is that they've made it possible to incorporate flickr photos directly into your blog.

There are disadvantages of course. I publish far too many photos for Flickr's free quota, and you can't publish high-quality versions of the photos, but neither or these is truly the aim. Flickr creates a new opportunity for building a shared visual narrative with friends or broader community, similar to how LiveJournal's friends list creates a shared, journaling community.

Speaking of LJ (which previously had been my only example of a good social networking site): LJ publishes your friends list as FOAF (http://livejournal.com/users/username/data/foaf). Combine that with Flickr's Web API and you could have a great combined, distributed service with both journaling and photo-sharing. In the near future these Web applications can start blurring the borders and create a great, distributed, social networking service.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on August 18, 2004 6:18 PM.

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