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Keep Your Content Close, but Your Friends Closer

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Would you rather spend your time finding the needle in the haystack or the haystack on the needle?

Randall Stross writes an interesting article about OpenSocial in today’s New York Times. I’m still muddling my way through where I think the widget ecosystem brings the internet, but Stross says something that contradicts one of my earliest conclusions.

He quotes Joe Kraus from Google saying that the point of OpenSocial is to allow social networks to be mobile: you could embed a widget exposing your network of friends into Craigslist, for example, porting your trusted community into your ecommerce. Interesting.

But backwards. It’s far more likely that you will embed a Craigslist widget in your social network page than vice versa, in my opinion. Facebook profiles are home pages, people keep them open in the background while they work so they can keep on top of what their network is doing. It’s also far more likely that your friends will see your Craigslist posting if you embed it on your homepage than someone searching Craigslist will run across something posted by a friend.

Okay, its not a dichotomy like that. I know there will be hybrid models. But the fundamental question is: will social features be embedded in content sites or content features in social networks? I’m tempted to say there is a matrix of networking and content features and that there will be opportunities at each matrix juncture, but that’s not how it works in real life.

I think social networks become the predominant form of navigation and that pointers to content get distributed through them. This is what is happening–with increasing momentum–now. Why Mr. Kraus and Mr. Stross thinks otherwise is a mystery to me. But I’m certainly open to the possibility that I’m wrong.