It's fascinating that Google is not capable of making an usable social network. They made the best search engine, a decent email service, calendar, on-line documents and even video editor and much more all the way to Google Wave. But each time they step in the arena of social networks they only make one fail after the other.
Which doesn't make much sense. So, what are they missing?
Useable contact list
The most important asset of any social network is its user base. You can have all the options and gadgets and functions installed, but if there are no people to connect with, the network is dead. That's what makes Facebook a big player in the field. You know… everybody and their mom… But while that is an obstacle for new networks, it's Google's strongest weapon. Because, everybody, their mom, the rest of the family and some pets has Google accounts.
And Google knew that and even tried to exploit it when they launched Wave and Buzz. But still, it didn't went well. Why?
It turned out that there was too many contacts (friends – in the social networks dictionary) for each of us. Many of those were not people we'd like to hang out with in on-line party places. If you take a look in your Google contacts list you'll see everybody there. Friends (real friends), family, colleagues, people you have no idea who they are, acquaintances, newsletters, notifications and everybody that you have ever exchanged an email with. Which is a great base for connecting, but nobody sane would like to connect with all those contacts.
Simply put, we need a way to sort all those contacts. Like, in folders. That shouldn't be hard thing to make, right? It's not just a matter of social networking. It would be great to have people (and bots) sorted in wave too. And that contact manager should be easy to use. I mean batch selecting. Not clicking each name then assigning a folder to it and then confirming. Nobody has a spare life time for that.
photo by Trey Ratcliff
Not only that having a newsletter sending daemon is not needed in anybody's social network, most of us don't want our business partners seeing our holiday (or even worse, party) photos. We don't share the same things to close friends and some other groups of people. So each of the folders has own reach to my stuff. Default (that means all that are not assigned) is no contact except email. Email exchange does not mean that we're friends or anything. No matter what great gurus are saying of sharing as the new social norm or things that shouldn't be done if we don't want them to be known by everybody.
API, iGoogle, wall and profile page
API is what programmers use to connect their applications to other applications made by somebody else. That's what all those quizzes and games use to connect to Facebook, for example. Because social networks are dependent on all that silly stuff people make to kill other people's time.
Also there is a need for page where all the updates will show (known as a wall) and a profile page for each user. Though there are profile pages for Google accounts those are hardly worth anything. And possibility to have own wall on iGoogle would be more than nice. Essential actually.
I know these sound obvious but contact manager is obvious as well but we don't have it. Not to mention that it would be really nice (and easy to make) a gadget for iGoogle for Buzz updates and list of new Google Waves (also obvious) but we're still waiting for them.
Still, my hopes are on the other side
There is one more thing that would make a social network of my dreams – having the code opened and available, so it doesn't belong to any single company. But that's too much to expect from a corporation. On the bright side, it's easy for Diaspora to implement everything said above.
Have I missed something? What would you like to see in the perfect social network?