You probably know at least one person who has a page on MySpace or a video presence on YouTube. We do. We’ve seen the meteoric rise in participation in such mobile social networks in recent months. You would think that with all those users and all that traffic, coupled with the fantastic numbers of mobile phone users, the next logical step would be an explosion in the mobile version of those sites. You’d be wrong.
Despite the staggering number of potential users of such mobile social networking, the numbers aren’t bearing out. The media splash that was the Helio-MySpace partnership earlier this year didn’t result in the millions of users that either company hoped for, and some industry analysts are doubting that the looked-for explosion will take place anytime soon.
The main obstacle, as you can probably figure out, is that you can’t take your PC with you (unless it’s a laptop, and even then, you’re still fighting the bulk factor). Your mobile data device, even if it’s a smartphone, is nowhere near as powerful as a garden variety desktop computer. That smart new Palm or Treo or whatever you happen to have in your flip-fold bag of tricks might have lots of bells and whistles, but it doesn’t have the core constituency needed to run the full version of MySpace, YouTube, or a host of other networking application sets.
The result, as we all know, is that smaller is indeed smaller. The mobile version of MySpace doesn’t have the full functionality of its larger cousin, and that lessens the appeal. That’s the uphill battle that Helio and MySpace are fighting. If you are satisfied with a scaled-back version of MySpace, then you’re the customer they’re looking for; if you want something more, then you probably can’t be bothered.
The future of mobile social networking, it seems to us, then, is the kind of data exchange that doesn’t require large amounts of memory or bandwidth, such as text messaging, photo and file sharing, and location-based services. These functionalities are available now and have been for some time. They are being improved all the time, which is better for all of us who want and will increasingly depend on such things to stay in touch with our friends and family, and with reality.
This leads us to conclude that for now, the future of mobile social networking is in upgrades of present technology. Perhaps when some Einstein among us figures out the secret to holographic computer chips, we’ll see the full version of MySpace on a mobile phone. For now, we wait …