Two announcements today have got me thinking about the future shape of social networking.
The first was a tweet from Kevin Rose about a startup he’s investing in.
Path is a limited social network. When you sign up you can make a connection to fifty friends, and that’s it.
“Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal. Path is a place where you can be yourself.”
This is a deliberate design choice based on research by Robin Dunbar
“Dunbar’s research also shows that personal relationships tend to expand in factors of roughly 3. So while we may have 5 people whom we consider to be our closest friends, and 20 whom we maintain regular contact with, 50 is roughly the outer boundary of our personal networks. These are the people we trust, whom we are building trust with, and whom we consider to be the most important and valued people in our lives.”
Source: Introducing the Personal Network
The second announcement that caught my attention was Facebook’s new messaging service.
The Social Inbox
It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement. It’s not that those other messages aren’t important, but one of them is more meaningful. With new Messages, your Inbox will only contain messages from your friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where you can look at them separately.
If someone you know isn’t on Facebook, that person’s email will initially go into the Other folder. You can easily move that conversation into the Inbox, and all the future conversations with that friend will show up there.
You can also change your account settings to be even more limited and bounce any emails that aren’t exclusively from friends.
Source: See the Messages that Matter
I get the feeling that social networks, as we experience them, are about to get smaller and more meaningful. Just the people we know and care about. That’s just as it should be, and as it should have been from the start.