There has been a lot of talk in Silicon Valley these days about the Social Graph. The Social Graph is a great theoretical concept that puts forth the notion that everyone in the world is related via an underlying map of nodes (people) and interdependencies (how they are related). The theory of the Social Graph is that one exists. It’s not hard to get on board with that.
What’s been fascinating to me is the bastardization of the Social Graph in the press from a cool theoretical concept into the perceived goal of successful social “utilities” to define the Social Graph in its entirety under one commercial roof. That it is possible to have online what has never been possible in the real world: a simple, uniform organization of everyone in the world with real, accurate identities in one place.
For people who are attracted to order and uniformity, this may be the ultimate promise of the Internet. However, this approach runs smack up against one big problem: Human Nature.
People thrive on the freedom to display different sides of their personality to different people depending on the context. Having one uber-context with one uber-profile is in inherently limiting, albeit theoretically easier to manage.
For example, one of the first things we heard when we launched Your Own Social Network for Anything with one profile photo across all networks was that people wanted different profile photos for different networks. Our reaction? Duh, of course they do! We all want the freedom to express ourselves in different ways depending on who we’re with.
Last week we launched profile photos per network and our traffic has shot up since. While I don’t think that alone has driven our growth, we are seeing that anytime we offer people more options for expressing themselves, there is a direct correlation with member growth on networks.
We think services that provide people with a way to manage a single profile in a uniform way are fantastic for bringing new people into social networking in the same way AOL was a critical step in getting people online in the first place.
Ultimately, though, as a new technology matures, it more and more closely evolves to reflect fundamental human behavior. People want the freedom to create unique experiences. They want their own space with their own norms, features. members, ideas, and designs. They want more and more ways to express themselves as the unique individuals they are. They want to be human.