Are We Going to Get Social Media Right?

New, Improved *Semantic* Web!

Image by dullhunk via Flickr

As social media tools proliferate and as a global social cloud forms, there is a question about what it all means. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A bit of both? Where’s it all heading?

I’m envisioning the future of the entire social media cloud. There’s ample talk about what’s going on right now. More than enough in fact. Don’t you want to know what’s going to happen? Do you hope, as I do, that we get it right?

By right, I mean that we expand democracy and shrink tyranny. By right, I mean that we become collaborators and not rivals. We will be both, but the cost of rivalry in a nuclear world increases as knowledge proliferates through the future social medium.


Perhaps we need to step back for a peak at the past and where we stand. For this post, I’ll break up the web into three phases:

  • Phase 1 (version 1.0): computer-to-computer connection (FTP)
  • Phase 2 (version 2.0): document-to-document connection (WWW)
  • Phase 3 (version 3.0): data-to-data connection (Semantic Web, Cloud)

For simplicity, we’ll say that Phase 1 began about 30 years ago, while Phase 2 began about 15 years ago.

We’re at the beginning of Phase 3. Phase 3 will transpire during a sharp technological inflection. Computing will evolve away from desk and laptops toward mobile devices and other portals. What we call the web, and are starting to call the Cloud, will become a global device into which we will all be plugged.

Social Media will be completely different in five years or so. Today there are thousands of tools, some of which win in popularity and others just die. What we call Social Media is greater than the sum of its tools. The tools might change, but the medium will grow. But just as Google pretty much won the text-search war, another entity (or small group) may ‘win’ the social media platform war.

We’ve gotten used to the idea that the web is just an invisible connective tissue for disparate points in a big fishnet. We have gotten acclimated to one model for the web. The web is rapidly evolving. Today’s model won’t work tomorrow. Ten years ago the model was TV. How wrong we were!

What’s going to happen when we are perpetually plugged into what will inevitably become a global supercomputer? Right now the web is a network of devices. That will change. The web will congeal into a dynamic mass of interactivity.


So, if we get this wrong, if we don’t address fundamental problems, we’re going to have big problems on our hands. The barbarism of the 20th Century hasn’t passed: industrialized nations are still waring, and economies are faltering. We cannot possibly think that what happens in the real world will be washed away by social media parlor tricks, can we?

Oh, and I forgot about RFID technology (or its future equivalent). When we’re inextricably embedded into the Cloud, who or what do we turn to if things are dystopic? Each other? Well, if we get it wrong, ‘each other’ might be the core of the problem. Phase 3 will bring unprecedented opportunities and dangers. It’s time for reviving science fiction exercises; we need intelligent and imaginative discussion.

Whatcha think? Are we getting it right? Are we discussing what matters most? Or are we so narrowly enthralled with the latest social media tools so much so that we’re forgetting about the future of the social media cloud?

Are we clear, or foggy?

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