MySpace-Skype deal signals future of social networking

The deal to be announced tomorrow at the Web 2.0 Summit, for integration between MySpace IM and Skype, suggests that what I’ve been arguing for some time is coming true: the convergence of social networking and communication applications. It’s inevitable that we build more crossover between our communications applications (which know our real social network) and social networking applications, which give us tools to manage and track it.

This partnership is primarily aimed at adding Skype voice-calling capabilities to MySpace IM, but there’s no question in my mind that this integration is the tip of the iceberg. The outcomes are several:

  1. Social networking applications will grow into a kind of “smart address book” that aggregates our knowledge about and contact with the people we care about.
  2. The social network operating system will require interoperability between many applications that touch on our connections to other people, and our knowledge about them.

  3. There will be many niches, ranging from managing contacts among a group of friends or people with common interests, or managing contacts among people at an event (a la Crowdvine), to mass scale outreach, and eventually, to a kind of CRM 2.0 for corporate outreach. (To this latter point, some people have compared MySpace to Facebook by saying that MySpace isn’t really a social network so much as it’s a way for bands to connect with their fans. But that’s a great use-case for social networking, as MySpace’s deal with Sony (announced earlier today) demonstrates. There will be many use cases! Don’t get trapped into thinking that today’s use cases represent an end point.)

Here’s the meat of the announcement, from the press release:

MySpace, the world’s most popular social network, and Skype, the leading Internet communications company, today announced a partnership to empower the MySpace community with voice communications. With more than 110 million monthly active MySpace users and 220 million Skype registered users around the world, this partnership connects two of the most popular communications platforms on the Internet to create the world’s largest online, voice-connected community.

The announcement unveils MySpaceIM with Skype, a new product that integrates MySpace’s popular IM client—currently the world’s fastest-growing IM platform with more than 25 million installed users—with Skype’s voice-calling capability. The partnership also will enable users to link their MySpace profiles and photos or avatars to their accounts on Skype. Both products will be available to end users starting in November.

Launching in 20 countries where MySpace has localized communities, MySpaceIM with Skype will enable millions of users to place free internet Skype calls to other MySpace or Skype users. The addition of Skype voice calling to MySpace’s instant messaging feature gives users more ways to easily connect with friends and family around the world and does not require MySpace users to download any additional Skype software.

I’m sure that this is the first of several MySpace announcements at the conference. They are not about to cede leadership in social networking to Facebook without a real fight. This is getting interesting. When companies compete hard, we all win, as innovation accelerates.

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