Is Social Networking Getting Old, Or Just Getting Started?

In the current Web 2.0 world, many have predicted that “trends” will have a very short life.  Many have written off Microsoft already because they already had their five years of dominance.  MySpace and FaceBook have had their day and will die out soon, according to some.  Twitter never really caught on in the mainstream (AOL is dead now, and it has way more users than Twitter), so micro-blogging in general is going the way of the bulletin board according to some.  Pownce just decided to close their doors, and Jaiku just disappeared after all.

But is social networking getting ready to claim its spot in cyber history, or just getting ready to really, truly explode?  Maybe it will die, or maybe we will see a steady increase in the future instead of another explosion.  But there are some interesting developments.

Ning was started as a “create-your-own-social-network” service a while back.  While it didn’t exactly change the world, it is inspiring others to do the same.  Shout’Em is a new service that allows you to create your own micro-blog service.  Right now it is in Beta, but you can see the EduGeek Shout’em site to see what it is like.  It does have a few features that Twitter doesn’t.  You can also create a private network, or customize the look of your network.  This could be great for creating your own network for your class… except for one glitch.  After the private Beta, they plan on charge $10 a month for each upgrade you want.  So, if you want a private network for your class with a custom design, that would be $20 a month.  Probably a deal killer for doing this on a class level, unless of course you can be okay with having an open network.  Which sounds like a good idea to me, at least at the college level.  (If you want to join the EduGeek network, you can use the invitation code of “doneright” – thanks to Teach42.com for the tip)

With the fees that they charge, Shout’em seems to be targeting businesses more than schools.  Yammer is also doing this, but with a different approach. Yammer seems to  base their networks around your email address.

Another interesting development is Google FriendConnect.  You can see the widgets in the sidebars of this site to see what they are like.  Google is letting you create social networks based around a site that you own.  They say they are going to roll-out some more features in the future.  Feel free to join ours to see what it is like.  The only hindrance with this one is that it can only be used by the person that owns a site.  You can’t add this to, say, a class hosted on BlackBoard.  If your school installed BlackBoard on their server and also will install the two required files on their site, however – you could be in business.

And speaking of Blackboard, I will say that I liked the integration with social networking tools that I am starting to see in their software.  Not sure if I can say exactly what I saw yet, but they are taking that in to consideration.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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