Thursday, October 28, 2010

Global Standards and Online Social Networking

            According to David Grewal, globalization presents a problem of social coordination, how people will meet up and engage with one another. He argues that the world is not “flat” (as Thomas Friedman claims) but “networked.”
Grewal defines standards as “a common way of doing something, a convention that allows us to cooperate, whether we are talking about languages or measurement systems or technical protocols or technology platforms.” Examples of standards in an international network include English or Microsoft Word. The more widely a standard is used, the more valuable it becomes to adopt it in order to communicate. And once it is established, it also has more of a staying power. Though these standards are non-coercive, individuals must often make the choice to use them if they want to participate.

            To what extent does Facebook dominate social networking? It is fast spreading around the world and is perhaps on its way to becoming a global standard, as the popularity of alternatives (such as Myspace) is fading. People choose to switch to the dominant form in order to be able to connect to others. If most of your friends and colleagues are using Facebook to network, then it would be valuable to connect via that site. This is particularly true with international networks, where online social networking helps to eliminate distance.
            But new research by Gartner has suggested that Facebook’s reach may not be as global as it seems. The Asia Pacific tends to use more locally developed forms of social networking, perhaps more attune to the cultural preferences in the region (examples include Friendster, Cyworld, Mixi, and RenRen). The social networking market in China, Japan, and South Korea is more centered around online gaming, while India’s market has grown from a high demand for dating and matchmaking sites.
Yet, “social networking in Asia is changing as the major global operators make steady incursions across the region, with feature rich platforms set to erode the margins of Asian social sites charging subscription fees and digital product sales.” Some local sites are slowly losing subscribers as they switch to Google and Facebook, which have a more features and a wider range.
Maybe Facebook will eventually become a global standard after all.

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