These days it is hard to tell one social network from another. The feature sets are beginning to align between all of the major players and this is continuing the fragmentation of users across the various platforms. One prime example is the ability to host video chats with other users, sometimes multiple users at once. This has been going on for a while, but it really struck me recently when I saw SnapChat’s announcement of video chat supporting up to 16 people. This is odd to me as this social network was once known for its disappearing message trick which troubled parents and spouses. Clearly, they are looking for new ways to gain more users and retain their current user base. Almost every major player in the social network sphere has the same set of features. Has anyone seen filters on video and pictures before? Once that feature was released by one network, the others began following suit. LinkedIn has attempted to remain professional, which plays better with it’s user base, but even LinkedIn now has a feature in their client to choose GIFs by topic for funny replies to messages. Why does this get my attention? I’ll explain below.
While I understand the fear and concerns over one single network (to rule us all), I would like to see more standardization or cross-platform usability from the major social networks. The idea of social networks is to connect people. However, most of these networks are in a battle for registered users of their services. They do not cooperate with others and this leads to a fragmented social experience. For instance, not all of my friends and family are on Facebook. I would like the ability to choose the network of my choice and have a shared stream of status updates and a common messaging platform so that I can be connected to all my friends. This idea is being destroyed by the privacy concerns driven by bad decision making from executives who are more interested in what your data can do for them than what their social networks can do for your relationships and business.
While my dreams of a ubiquitous social experience will probably never come true, I still think it is sad to see a lack of innovation and this plagiarism of ideas between the major social platforms of today. If everyone looks the same to the user community, then what is the motivation for people to choose a specific social network? Sure, you can say that it is the customer service or privacy practices of one network over another that garners specific attention from users, but I think there should be more. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. Also, what do you think of my idea for cross platform messaging and status streams between networks? Please comment below.