The future of social networking: towards a socialised state – the joy of unlimited communication

From a special report on social networking in the 28 January print edition of The Economist with more links to more stories available by looking atthestoryWhat will the future of social networking look like? Imagine this: your digital video recorder automatically copies a television show that several of your friends were talking about on a social network before the show went on air. Or this: you get into your car, switch on its navigation system and ask it to guide you to a friend’s house. As you pull out of the driveway, the network to which you both belong automatically alerts her that you are on your way. And this: as you are buying a pair of running shoes that you think one of your friends might be interested in, you can send a picture to their network page with a couple of clicks on a keypad next to the checkout counter.Networking types like to talk about the idea that there is a pervasive social element in all of the things people interact with. Listen to them long enough and you come away with the impression that your teapot will soon be twittering about what you had for breakfast. Some of the ideas outlined above may sound far-fetched, but a service such as Facebook Connect, which already lets people export their social graph of online relationships to other web-enabled gizmos, suggests they are not completely outlandish. Everything from cars to cookers could ultimately have social connectivity embedded in it.

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