I know, I know… “Social Web”. If that term isn’t enough to put you off reading the rest of this post, you’ve passed the first test and are ready for the brave new future.
Just over a year after the launch of the “Like” button, Facebook has announced it’s new “Send” button. “Finally!”, I hear you say. Liking, sharing, buzzing, digging, tweeting and stumbling just isn’t enough these days. Sarcasm aside, the new “Send” functionality may actually be a step in the right direction. Basically, “Send” allows you to share a page/link/whatever with the right group of people instead of all your contacts. (Funnily enough, Google’s Buzz, widely derided as a giant social-networking flop, has had this functionality built in from the start.)
The more interconnected our online behaviours get with our offline lives, the harder it is to do anything online without it potentially being seen by the wrong people. We naturally have separate personas and behaviours in how we interact offline with different groups (for e.g. think how you are with your family, your work colleagues, your gun club), so it’s hardly surprising the model of a single group of contacts or “friends” isn’t a natural fit for all of our online activities.
Likewise, Facebook commenting has tried to tie us all to one online profile that means we lose the freedom to have different personas on different sites.
In its rush to create one social graph to rule them all, Facebook has missed the point of the interest graph. Sure, I’m connected to all these people, but I’m not connected to them in the same way. Hopefully, “Send” marks a return to Facebook getting why 700 million users use their site.
The “Social” aspect of web design isn’t a fad – on the contrary, it’s going to become more and more pervasive in the future – but we need to make sure we add it in the right way. Adding social features to your site has great potential… as long as we bear in mind that the user is connecting your service to their profile for the value they gain from it. There’s no point in gaining a “Like” if it ends up a dislike.
PS: If you have the time, check out this slideshow from a few months back on “The Real Life Social Network” by Paul Adams, it’s excellent.