Predictions on the Social Graph for 2008: Charlene Li and Jeremiah

Listen in to the audio podcast by pressing the play button using the Forrester player above. Folks have asked for me to be transparent in our research, so I’m pulling you all in behind the scenes as Charlene Li and I discuss the topics we research on.

Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff, Peter Kim, and myself collaborated on Top Social Computing Predictions For 2008. While many folks have already published their predictions in Dec, now’s a good time for us to share after the noise has settled down.

While we each gave specific predictions for the year, Charlene and I focused in on the aggregation or portability of the Social Graph. Not famliar with what the social graph is? Then please read Explaining what the “Social Graph” is to your Executives.

Thanks to Sim at Utterz for creating this customized player for Forrester, it was easy to use, we just needed a quiet room and a phone.

  • Thanks for the predictions. I agree with Charlene. It’s becoming difficult to manage various Social Network relationships as they’re expressed on different sites. I look forward to an easier interface.

  • Ginny

    Yup, and it’s more than just making it easier for the users, the real benefit of socialization coming to static websites is one of the biggest features we could see.

  • Did you know that most predictions are wrong and no more accurate than you’d get from a man in the street? So why do we still try and do them? I prefer wishlists.

  • nmw

    I strongly disagree that there is only one or a few “social graphs”. I feel that for every phenomenon — e.g. “web strategy” there are separate social graphs (e.g. the graph , which shows all of the “real” relationships people have to the phenomenon of “web-strategy” [or the role of the “web-strategy manager”, i.e. “web-strategist”; and in particular the “web-streatgist in a commercial setting”]). So I do not find it unreasonable at all that there are presently over 100 million social graphs — and in the future there will be “billions and billions” such graphs….

    🙂 nmw

  • Dennis

    Yes most predictions are wrong, yet we do them because we have to plan for the future. As a result, we have to at least take some stabs at what the future will hold.


    To be clear, everyone will have their specific social graph(s). so yes, there could be more than 6 billion of them.

  • nmw

    I think we totally agree, Jeremiah! 🙂

    I do feel, however, that using the number “6 billion” is unfortunate — because that would almost make it seem like there might be a 1-to-1 relationship between the number of people and the number of personal relationships and/or roles any single person can take on. Indeed: Every person probably plays a role in many social graphs — perhaps up to the “extreme” perspective that every person plays a role in every social graph (i.e., it could be an “infinitesimally small” role — but still some role [e.g. it could be so small as to be simply “imperceptible”]).

    In this vein, I might venture that about 6 billion people play an imperceptible role in almost any social graph (be that the graph or the graph or the graph), and only a comparatively small number play a “significant” role. Each of these graphs will be related to other graphs in the network known as the “world-wide web” (www) of social graphs — and it was Google’s “bright idea” to harness this information to add significantly to the information retrieval process.

    What the engineers at Google overlooked, however, is that not all social graphs are alike. A “” social graph is essentially different than a “” social graph — but still, Google’s algorithms do not differentiate among them. If I were to search on for “paris hilton”, then I would expect different results than if I searched for “paris hilton” on (and precisely because these “online properties” are something like two different “graphical maps” of two different aspects of the real world. One-size-fits-all search engines, however, have not yet caught on that information retrieval is not simply a matter of applying the same to all phenomena. Perhaps I could echo E.F. Schumacher’s notion of “appropriate technology” and suggest that successful search / information retrieval technology may very well crucially depend on applying “appropriate measuring sticks”.

    In stark contrast, we now observe that Google and other search engines have instead chosen to disable their previous “technological breakthrough” (since they have introduced “nofollow” links) and instead offer whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay.

    In sum, my guess is that sites like and/or are successful primarily due to the ludicrous nonsense that has come out of Google over the past couple years. As time goes on, social graphs will continue to become more focused and/or specialized — and one-size-fits-all engines would do well to observe that has something to do with graphing the topic “cars”, just as has something to do with graphing the topic “baby” (and I guess more and more strategists will also recognize that it maybe be useful to play more than merely an insignificant role in such graphs).

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  • Interesting idea about having 3 social graphs–friends–family–and professional. I think Charlene is correct to point out the overlap in some cases.

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