The Social Internet ?

Flock – which I tried for long enough yesterday thankyouverymuch – is promoting itself as some sort of ‘social tool’. del.icio.us is also a social bookmarking entity, as will be Spurl, Furl and no doubt others. But the internet isn’t social is it ? Sure, we use it to communicate with a wide variety of people, but it’s impersonal and as false as you can be bothered to create it. So why use the word ‘social’ ? Is it an attempt to make the Web more friendly ? But you can’t put a human face onto a machine and expect people to think it’s more friendly – if that was the case then we’d all love those machines that answer our phones calls and trunk us through a dozen options, or we’d be asking for the ‘always on, always smiling’ machines to replace people.
The net was never meant to be social – it’s a tool, albeit one used by a lot of people. And the pretence that you could put in undermines that – how many sites do you know where the ‘internet persona’ does not match the in-the-flesh person ? Do you want to be social with someone living such a deception ? It may be the argument that “it’s online so what they choose does not matter” but when you start using words like ‘social’ it does. If I looked it wouldn’t surprise me if the word ‘community’ is in there too. C’mon – it’s a piece of software, code, 1’s and 0’s. They all are. What is connecting them is that people are using that software – and that is where the interest would seem to start and stop. It’s not like usenet where participation in a newsgroup gives you a shared interest that involves real typing and real sharing of experiences. It’s not like sites that are primarily based around a certain idea (such as BME). This social stuff is essentially saying “Cool people use this” and aren’t you getting utterly fed up with all this ‘invite’ stuff ? GMail, wordpress.com, flock, orkut (that’ll be “10 seconds to load each page Orkut” – it’s unusable) etc etc etc … it’s got sod all to do with anything but hype. Hype – that’s Web2.0 isn’t it ?

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