Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Social Media, Colliding Galaxies & Holodecks

In about 3 billion years, our galaxy (The Milky Way) will collide with our nearest cousin galaxy (Andromeda). It will be a galactic fireworks display of energy and destruction and some dancing of stars. Dancing of stars? Not "Dancing with the Stars" but "Dancing of Stars". Yes, some stars will be destroyed and some will find a partner in the opposite galaxy. Those stars will conduct an interstellar waltz for eternity or at least until those stars exhaust all of their hydrogen. In any case, both galaxies will be changed forever.

Similarly, the world of social media will collide with the web. One might say this is a bad analogy as social media is a part of the web and the Milky Way and Andromeda are 2 distinct galaxies.

That is true but bear with me.

When this collision of social media and web happens, there will be some destruction as old players die out. In addition, there will be players who dance with partners that they never dreamed of dancing with.

You’re probably asking “What does this mean?”. I will get there soon, but 1st another metaphor.
On the TV series “Star Trek the Next Generation” there was a technology called the “Holodeck”. The Holodeck was a virtual reality simulation that used computers, optics and force fields to simulate any environment. On the Holodeck, you could experience sailing on a 1700 century sailing ship or experience a night club comedy show act or anything and everything. The “people” and things encountered on the Holodeck seemed real. On one particular episode, the cast of characters encountered Professor Moriarty (the fictional character and arch enemy of Sherlock Holmes) on the Holodeck. Professor Moriarty’s personality was controlled by the Holodeck’s computer. In the episode, the artificial intelligence became self aware and Moriarty desired to leave the confines of the Holodeck simulation . Moriarty in turn held members of the Enterprise crew as hostages on the Holodeck.

To defeat Moriarty, the crew of the Enterprise fooled Moriarty into believing that he had left the Holodeck by using transporter technology to beam him to another Holodeck. Moriarty thought that he was in the real world when in actuality he was on another Holodeck.

Now, to the non-Star Trek fans, thank you for your patience.

My point:
Social Media is the Holodeck.
The Web is the Real World.

Soon, you will not be able to distinguish one from the other.
Facebook knows a lot of information about its users. For instance Facebook knows that I like Star Trek, that I’m from Detroit, that I studied Computer Science and that I like Google Android Application Development. This information can be used to change the way I interact with the web. As Facebook expands its reach to publisher networks, visitors will experience the Facebook experience throughout their entire web experience.

Imagine going to Yahoo! News and seeing news on your college buddy’s new business or doing a Google Search and finding information on your co-worker’s bridal shower or seeing a display ad on CNN for your father’s retirement party.

With the help of Facebook, the web will be more personal and more meaningful. The entire social media experience and web experience will be blurred to the extent that the user will not be able to distinguish between the two.

While working at Yahoo! on their social media task force, I tried to help them understand this concept. So, what do you think?


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