All Software Should Be Social

I had lunch with Marc Canter yesterday and told him that one of the most important thoughts that I came across last year was his assertion that "all software must be social". I can’t find the specific post where he said that or I’d link to it.

Since reading that, I can barely use software that doesn’t have other people in it. I want profiles and faces and connections. I want to see what others are doing with the software. I want to connect and be connected.

It might be as simple as a text editor in which Brad and Andrew are connected to me. It might be as complicated as Facebook. It really doesn’t matter. If there aren’t faces and profiles, the software is less useful to me.

This was all rattling around in my brain when I read Brad Stone’s piece on Social Networking’s Next Phase in the NY Times today. In that piece Brad talks about the sale of Tribe to Cisco. I am an investor in Tribe so I am not going to say anything about that deal.

I have been wanting distributed social nets for a long time now. MySpace provides very little value to me. Same with Facebook. But MyBlogLog provides a lot more. Not because it’s a social net focused on my demo, but because its a meta social net made up of lots of smaller social nets.

Clay Shirky once said that social nets are like parties. When they are small, they are really great, when they get big and crowded, they cease to be useful. Again I can’t find that post, or I’d link to it.

Clay’s right. But a huge social net that’s made up of millions of smaller social nets is likely to be even more useful than anything that we currrently have.

I think the web has to become a social net. It’s on its way, but we don’t have a single profile (my blog is mine) that we can use everywhere. Not all software is social. Not all social software can handle a single distributed profile. I could go on and on. Marc and I did yesterday at lunch.

Brad Stone is right. Open and distributed networks are the future of social networks. They will be everywhere. But we can’t and won’t have hundreds of profiles. We need a single "name space" for profiles. That’s going to happen. MySpace and Facebook will fight it just like AOL and Prodigy didn’t embrace the web. But it’s unstoppable because the value that will accrue to the entire social web will be incredible when we get there.