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Social networking is here to stay

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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: You heard Meg Whitman say a minute ago that eBay’s about all social commerce — that it’s a business and a community. For a company like Facebook, the community is the business.

Commentator Andreas Kluth says before long we’ll all be social networking, just maybe not on Facebook.


ANDREAS KLUTH: Social networks are this year’s “next big thing.” Facebook is so hot that it’s theoretically valued at $15 billion. Why? Because it has allegedly reinvented something huge: the way human beings interact in their social cliques and circles.

Well, true or false?

Partly true, because technology is certainly enhancing, and sometimes complicating, our real offline social behavior.

So, for example, it will soon be completely normal for a group of new moms to create their own social network to blog about pediatricians, share info about this week’s play group, upload videos of the toddlers and so on. They can already do all that, but it will get easier and easier.

But now for the false. Because people in the future will not log on to one particular website, which presents itself as their walled garden for all their social activities.

They are doing that now in 2007, but that’s because social networking is today where the Internet was before the World Wide Web came along in the early 90s. Back then we went to AOL. But once we started browsing the Web, we were all just well, on the Web. The same exact thing will happen in networking. It will become not a site, not a destination, not a product, not even a company, but a feature.

Your address book will talk to your calendar, and your photo album, and your blog and then all those things will talk to the address books of the people in your address book. If one mom schedules a play group next Tuesday it automatically shows up in your calendar, too.

Where and how does it show up? It doesn’t matter. Because social networking will be a feature of every existing product by the big Internet companies today. Just like e-mail. There’s no “e-mail company” either.

Social networking is the new e-mail.

It’s not a fad, and it’s here to stay, and it’s way too cool to be a business.

KAI RYSSDAL: Andreas Kluth is the San Francisco correspondent for The Economist magazine.

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