Technology & Social Media

The future of the Internet takes shape

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Anyone else out there suffering from "social fatigue?" That's the frustration one feels while trying to keep track of profile names, contacts, photos, login information and other data that we've scattered across countless social networking sites.

I've joined a bunch of different social sites over the past year because (a) I'm a firm believer that the social Web will play a huge role in the evolution of the Internet, and (b) I don't know which of these sites are going to stick. Join 'em all, then pare off that ones that don't work -- that's been my philosophy so far. That presents a problem, though -- lots of data floating around lots of different sites.

If you're feeling the same angst, here's a concept worth watching: It's called "data portability," and Web giants Facebook and Google have both released technologies that will promote that concept.

Facebook calls its technology Facebook Connect. In this CNET article, Caroline McCarthy writes that "members will be able to use their Facebook identities across the Web -- profile photos, names, photos, friends, groups, events, and other information. Facebook profile content, for example, could appear on other social sites, and Facebook event listings could theoretically connect with external event and invitation services."

Google counters with Friend Connect, through which "any Web page, whether it is devoted to curling or pizza or a folk singer, could allow visitors to meet and connect with 'friends' who visit that site," writes Peter Whoriskey of The Washington Post. "Like any such major network today, a Web page using the service could present users with the names and pictures of friends and potential friends. Those people could then post messages to one another."

The technologies are still in their early stages, but they're evidence of the direction in which we're heading. A Time article titled "Who Will Rule the New Internet?" says Google, Facebook and Apple are among the architects of the new Web. "The outcome here is far more important than who makes the most money," writes auther Josh Quittner. "The future of the Internet — how we get information, how we communicate with one another and, most important, who controls it — is at stake."

For me, the moral of the story is this: Ignore the social Web at your own peril. Its influence and importance will only continue to grow.


Bill Sheridan