Defining Social Platforms

Over the past few months I have been thinking about the distinction between social networks, the social graph and social platforms. While preparing for a presentation the other day I decided that it was time to actually define what social platforms are. In the process of defining “social platforms” I had to first define what social networks are and what the social graph is. There has already been much discussion as to whether or not there should be any distinction between the social graph and social networks.

My assumption is that there is one social graph for each individual and they can be part of multiple social networks. The social graph is the sum total of all our real-world connections and the sociological bonds (or ties). While social networks have a very similar definition the primary distinction is that we can be part of multiple social networks but we each only have one social graph. There are three primary types of social networks:

  1. Those that represent our real-world connections,
  2. Those that represent virtual/fantasized connections, and
  3. Those that represent a mix of virtual/fantasized and real-world connections.

This brings us to social platforms. Social platforms are one step above social networks. Social networks can be both real-world and virtual; our social graph combines all of them. So what is a social platform?

A social platform is an operating system that leverages the power of social connectivity to virally distribute applications.

It’s as simple as that. We can leverage our various social networks or anybody in our social graph to help distribute the applications that we find useful or entertaining. All social platforms must include the following features:

  1. A markup language enables developers to display both personal and social information without accessing the information
  2. An API (application program interface) that provides access to the core elements of the platform (e.g. a cell phone’s phonebook or Facebook profile wall)
  3. A system for defining a user’s connections (bonds or ties)
  4. Privacy settings that enable users to control what information applications have access to

Are there any other components that social platforms must have? Do you think any of the ones I included are not a necessity?