And Then There Was Email

Brain dump alert! This morning I had an interesting conversation over breakfast. We were discussing the news about Google’s contact API and how this would effect Facebook. There were a number of interesting things that came out of the conversation including this boom/bust cycle that takes place in technology. The same thing happens in all ecosystems and we are witnessing that take place in our current economy.

Within the social web there has been a lot of cycles of expansion followed by contraction. We saw the movement of users from the AOL walled garden outside to the general web but ultimately we are witnessing a move back toward a central management system. The center of that system is email. “Social” is rapidly becoming a feature that all sites can embed. On the internet we want to be connecting with other people and social networks are the most recent technology to make connecting easier.

Prior to this we had newsgroups, bulletin boards, message boards, chat rooms and instant messaging. Social networks have simply become the newest addition of those tools. Facebook and MySpace have defined themselves as the leaders. Ultimately they are both the modern day portals that could in theory begin offering email addresses to their users. Combining those email addresses with friend grouping tools (as I mentioned earlier this morning) will result in them being the center of one’s social identity on the web.

As Charlene Li suggested at the Graphing Social Patterns conference earlier this week, our email addresses will become the center of our universal identity on the web. It’s interesting how we’ve gone full circle back to connecting via email.