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Jun 17, 2008

Google's view: Three trends in social networking

SAN FRANCISCO-- "Social is the new black," Joe Kraus, Google's director of product management, said at a talk on the company's social-computing efforts at the Supernova conference here.

Kraus' view, which can be fairly said to represent Google's, is that these are the three big trends in the social Web:

Google's Joe Kraus talks about the future of the social Web.

(Credit: Rafe Needleman/CNET Networks)

Discovery is becoming social
This was the most telling tidbit from Kraus' talk. He noted that searching on Google is good, but having your friends help you find what you're looking for is better. He gave an example of how social discovery can work--putting a status message in the IM field in Gmail and waiting for people to chime in to help you. But that is not representative of the state of the art in social discovery.

Takeaway: Look for Google to finally launch an initiative in social search. Or maybe acquire a company like Delver.

How we share is changing
Kraus says that people under-share because they don't want to appear self-important. Sending an e-mail to friends with new baby pictures, he says, requires "high social activation energy in the part of the sender," and thus slows down sharing. But guess what, he says: Your friends really do want to know what you're up to. They might not like being interrupted, but they do care.

You can see how sharing is changing on Facebook andFriendFeed, Kraus says. These sites let your friends discover what you're doing on their terms, and encourage more sharing, since you don't have to get in your friends' faces every time you update.

If you're reading tea leaves here, Kraus' mention of FriendFeed over Twitter was perhaps telling.

Social sites? No, social Web
Kraus notes that the idea of a site built around user content (like Epinions) is old-school. Today, users expect all sites to be social. They expect that if you're on a commerce site that you know your friends are also on, you can see what your friends bought there and if they liked it. Social is a feature, he says, not a destination.

This last trend, in particular, backs up what Google is doing now with Friend Connect, a new architecture that enables Web publishers to put modules on their sites that allow cross-site sharing.

Kraus also pointed to three recent standards as the key helpers to the creation of the social Web: OpenID for identity, OAuth for API authorization, and Open Social for building cross-site apps.

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