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The proprietary nature of the social networks

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SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Is the Web becoming less unified because of the rise of proprietary social networks and the diverse range of devices people use to consume Web content?

  • The Web was never unified to begin with. 48.15%
  • The Web is becoming increasingly splintered. 25.40%
  • The Web is unified; it’s the devices that are not. 21.16%
  • No opinion. 5.29%

A couple of years ago then-Forrester analyst Charlene Li talked about a Pangaea where universal social network identities would be coupled with a single social graph. The idea, while futuristic, was attractive because it portended an era of streamlined social networking.

To Charlene’s point, more social networks and Web applications are depending on Facebook Connect to provide a single sign-on capability. The day when Charlene’s future vision will be realized is still far off, however. You need a Gmail account to make use of Google Buzz, for example. Add to that the preponderance of new applications such as Kindle and Apple’s iPad, and you’ve got a Web that, as the poll indicates, is still very proprietary.

Hopefully, as we look to the future, marketers, social network application developers and device developers alike will take to heart what Li recommended:

  • Create linkages between services based on individually controlled identity federation.
  • Compete on creating the most compelling social experience, not social graph lock-in.
  • Develop social applications that have meaning.
  • Design business models that reflect the value created by people’s social network.

Do you think that day will ever come? I hold out hope it will.