Get ready for mobile social networks
Mobile social networking makes sense because mobile devices are personal and they are taken everywhere, offering the potential for transmission of quick ideas or images. Mobile social networks will (and some already do) put video, GPS, text, voice and collaboration into the palm of a user's hand.
For example, a business traveler at a conference in an unfamiliar city could be walking past an appealing restaurant. Using mapping and location technologies, the traveler could almost instantly send a quick note to 10 friends in her workgroup to "meet here in 15 minutes for a meal." Or the hungry traveler could record a video of herself standing in front of the restaurant and send the video clip along with the message so her workgroup friends would know what kind of restaurant to expect.
The future of mobile social networks became a major topic of discussion in seminars and forums at the CTIA trade show this week. Device manufacturers, network operators and social network providers debated how the services will be paid for and by whom, and what steps must be taken to protect user privacy and safety.
Mobile social networks have not been widely adopted in the U.S., where between 5% and 10% of mobile users are participating, said Karsten Weide, an IDC analyst who spoke on a panel about the trend. But Weide said the number of users could easily double in a year, given the amount of interest in the concept by so many industry players. Adding to the reason for optimism, prominent vendors, including Verizon Wireless and Nokia Corp., announced a variety of tools at CTIA to help users aggregate social networks into a single interface.