MySpace, Facebook and Google: Racing For Web 3.0

MySpace, Facebook and Google have all recently made "major" announcements regarding the future of how their platforms will play with the rest of the Web. I put major in quotes because a majority of the functionality announced isn't yet available to the average Joe app/Web developer. Regardless, the trend seems to be the movement into Web 3.0 that is making the entire World Wide Web into social media.

 If Web 2.0 was all about social features and community formation, Web 3.0, it seems, will be about personalizing an individual's entire Web experience -- not just through data portability, but through community portability. In Web 3.0 your personal data will follow you from destination to destination, allowing you to experience the entire Web in a far more social manner. In order for this to work you need to have a centralized place to store your data -- a "home base" of sorts -- in a Web where you (and your data) may live in a lot of places. Facebook and MySpace both want, very very badly, to be your home base for Web 3.0.



You can read about both MySpace's and Facebook's versions of data portability on TechCrunch. The long and the short of their pitch to users will be this: Store your data on MySpace (or Facebook) and never have to sign up for another social network, service, community or Web site again. For developers and Webmasters the pitch centers more on allowing them to build greater "socialness" into their Web sites and applications (sorry, couldn't think of a good word that was real, so please consider "socialness" my version of Steven Colbert's "truthiness").

Google's Friend Connect takes a slightly different approach. Conceding that not all people are going to be storing their data with Orkut, Google wants to offer the tool set that promises to turn any static Web site into a social media property. As they tie into Facebook and other social networks (it will be very interesting to see when/if MySpace follows), you will begin to experience sites that were once information sources, with limited community, as fully social experiences. You don't have to register to join another site, probably never maintaining your registration data as your life changes (Web 2.0), but that data being tied to one source of data about you that you will maintain. It's not who else likes this site (Web 2.0), but who else that I know who likes this site. These are just basic examples, but you can begin to see the difference. Great walk through of the Google Friend Connect service on YouTube.

So what does all this mean for the ordinary user? Not much yet, but the plan is that it will spark an evolution of the Web, truly changing the way an individual experiences the Internet. I for one think we might be in for a little bit of a rough ride. Because, while there is great potential for this type of openness, it requires that developers see this as not simply an opportunity to tap into people's social networks on MySpace and Facebook to drive traffic and adoptions, but instead as a way to add value to people's experiences with tools and properties. If you see this as a way to gain more users, but can't find a way to improve the lives of those users, you are missing the potential.

Second, because MySpace and Facebook still don't play nice with each other, and there is no reason to assume they ever will, one is going to have to "win" in order for this to really start changing the Web. Sure, it will change things a little on a lot of sites right away, and may even changes things a lot on a select few sites, but for a majority of people, this is simply a way to extend their current Facebook or MySpace experience -- and they are still one or the other, or they are a Bebo'er or and MyYearbooker or...  ubiquity is key.

What does all this mean for marketers? Again, not a lot instantly. But most marketers are Web site publishers and application developers. Start thinking about what it would mean to have people "join" your brand's site and to experience your brand in a more social manner. Also, the above goes for all marketers: If you see this openness as a way of accessing people's friend lists, then you are missing the point, and in the end your brand will be missing the potential. What value does your brand add to a data and community portable Web 3.0?

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