Communities can’t flourish in walled gardens

I recently posted on the dangers of using closed Social Networking sites to develop community. Since writing that post I have entered into numerous discussion about my position. These discussions have taken place in both “walled garden” tools as well as within open communities such as mailing lists, direct emails and the blogsphere. In that time I have listened to, and learnt from, many different views and I’ve started to come to the conclusion that, well, I’m only partially right to when I say:

I predict only one or two of the current Social Networking sites will survive, and they will be the ones that share their network data first.

Randy Metcalfe pointed me at a BBC story in which Michael Geist agrees with my “sharing data” point:

 The better approach – for users and the sites themselves – would be to work towards a world of interoperable social networking.

However, Micheal disagrees, like many others, with my claim that only one or two Social Networking sites will survive:

Some services may believe that it is in their economic interest to stick to a walled garden approach; however, given the global divisions within the social networking world, the mix of language, user preferences, and network effects, it is unlikely that one or two services will capture the global marketplace.

I agree with Michael, and others. There is lots of room out there for niche players. What we need is open standards for creating interoperable networks.

I recently started reviewing open source social networking tools and the standards they adopt. This will be published as an OSS Watch briefing paper sometime in the next couple of months. Please let me know, via your comments, of any social networking/news/bookmark tools you think I should look at.