The Future of Social Networks

We are surrounded by noise. The environment around us is noisy; the streets, the airwaves, the oceans. The Universe has a constant background hiss that fills the void between the stars, known as the Cosmic Background Radiation. Additionally, there’s the concept of Entropy, which says that all organized systems eventually degrade into complete, unorganized chaos.

This is the future of all Social Networks at present: degenerating into a chaotic morass of meaningless information.

There are seven billion people on this planet, and if all or most of them are to be connected to each other in some degree, then the huge challenge that faces the ongoing existence and usefulness of any social network is how to increase the Signal to Noise ratio present in a user’s activity stream.

What information would a social network need in order to know what updates are most relevant to show you at a particular time, from all of the many ‘friends’ that you have?

I think the answer to this question will eventually be: ‘Everything’.

Facebook have already made some inroads into gathering this information by tracking every page you visit with a ‘Like’ button installed on it, or other nefarious means. Google know a fair amount about your activities on the web, what you search for, what you like, web sites you visit by using their public DNS service and so on. Twitter are gathering you activities from pages you visit with ‘Tweet’ buttons on them.

The more that a social network knows about your activities, needs and desires, the better it is able to show you things that are relevant to your interests at that time. As more and more people are connected with each other, the amount of information about you that the social network will need to know must increase in order to maintain the Signal to Noise level in the meaningful range.

One can imagine the huge resources required to undertake this deep level of inspection into a user’s activities on the web, resource requirements that as time goes by will only increase. Very few companies are positioned to be able to play at the table of user monitoring.

So what might the future of Social Networks look like? I’m prepared to make some bold predictions:

Sounds fun, eh?