Social networking behind closed doors

Jeff Attwood writes about the perils of Walled Gardens — basically free-to-access Intranets which hide their useful data away behind registration where search engines can’t get to it.

I did join Facebook, but like Jeff, I’m wary of it for another reason: should one rely on it for keeping in contact with people when it could (theoretically) all go bellyup tomorrow?

Who remembers SixDegrees.com? A lot of people (myself included) got onto it and put in a bunch of data about ourselves, and tracked our friends, and got involved… and then it shut down.

Remember Friendster? Similar story. It’s still out there, but has fallen out of favour (for whatever reason). Which is a problem, because as people abandon their profiles, the data becomes out of date, and therefore useless.

Who’s to say this won’t happen again at some stage with Facebook, or Orkut, or Twitter, or any of the others?

Can anybody get an open, futureproof social networking tool running? Or is Jeff right — that the best we have is the Internet itself. It’s open, it’s timeless, it’s universal. Search for me on any search engine and you’ll find me. You won’t find my Facebook entry though.

Okay, okay, so Google works better for looking for specific people. It’s not so good for browsing for old contacts (Oh! I remember him!) or when you can’t remember the name. For many Aussies, Schoolfriends (aka Friends Reunited) has a critical mass of old school contacts, though many people don’t visit it very often.

Maybe one day somebody will create an open, useful, perpetual and commercially successful social networking service.

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