Mobile social networking, meaning virtual networks bringing people physically together, will inevitably be a pervasive application

Michael Arrington on Techcrunch has just written an article titled I Saw the Future of Social Networking the Other Day, referring to an unnamed start-up that has a mobile social network that runs on iPhone. Arrington writes:

A few years from now we’ll use our mobile devices to help us remember details of people we know, but not well. And it will help us meet new people for dating, business and friendship. Imagine walking into a meeting, classroom, party, bar, subway station, airplane, etc. and seeing profile information about other people in the area, depending on privacy settings. Picture, name, dating status, resume information, etc. The information that is available would be relevant to the setting – quick LinkedIn-type information for a business meeting v. Facebook dating status for a bar.

None of this is new. I wrote about proximity dating in my 2002 book Living Networks and on this blog in early 2003, at the time referring to Imahima, an early player in this space in Japan. In 2005 I wrote about the next phase of mobile social network players including Dodgeball (bought by Google, who did nothing with them) and Meetro, and over the last couple of years I was interviewed on mobile social networking by a number of publications, including one piece in 2006 on What accelerates – and slows – the development of social networking mobile platforms.

As Arrington points out, despite the promise of the space, the potential has yet to be fulfilled. I see a parallel path to browser-based social networking. From its early beginnings with sixdegrees.com in 2000, it took until 2007 for social networking sites to work out the basics of what people found compelling and were comfortable with, leading to a broad-based uptake of social networking sites. Similarly, there is no question that mobile social networking will be a pervasive application, once the early attempts are used as a foundation to provide a platform that really provides what people are comfortable with. The benefits are compelling, particularly when locational data is combined with profile data to enable friends and potential friends to connect.

Perhaps the application Arrington refers to will break through after only mildly successful attempts so far. Or perhaps another initiative to follow will succeed. What is a certainty is that we will be using mobile social networks even more centrally to our lives than the role of Facebook and other browser-based social applications today.

  • Mobile advertising is a good gage to watch for the health of mobile social networks. Right now there a lot of mobile social networks trying to prove their business model based on ad sales. Crush or flush has added a new revenue model for mobile social networks that looks very promising. See the article posted at http://www.hiloa.com

  • Mobile social is the only way for social networks to evolve. Once they reach the saturation point there will only be one last frontier for them to go after. Hand held devices are that frontier.
    With that being said, it will be awhile before the browsers collectively catch up. Right now Safari is the big Dog but that will soon change with the evolution of the G phone.