Facebook will continue to be the 800-pound gorilla in the social networking space for the coming year. The challenge for Facebook will be to not shoot itself in the foot over privacy concerns. Trust is a big component in social networking (in real life as well as online), and Facebook is already on thin ice with many people over their ever-changing privacy policies. If those concerns spread or become more profound (or perhaps worse, attract the attention of government privacy regulators) Facebook risks losing growth momentum. That being said, location-based social networking sites like Foursquare and Gowalla will lose out to Facebook Places in the coming year as Places becomes the 800-pound gorilla in the “check in for rewards” category.
Twitter will release yet another revamped user interface in 2011. Users will complain about it for a few weeks before they get used to it. Twitter will be the news outlet of choice for breaking news from around the world when a huge natural disaster occurs or a celebrity dies.
Google will continue to try to figure out the social media marketplace by releasing Google Me in the first half of 2011. There will be much fanfare and excitement from the tech media pundits and the public will once again be puzzled while they try to figure out what it’s good for.
And last but not least, let’s see what 2011 holds for Apple. Like Google Wave before it, Apple’s musical entry into social networking “Ping” will languish in obscurity until Apple finally gives up on it late next year. Does anyone really care what music Steve likes to listen to? Ping’s dud will be offset by the biggest social change Apple will be responsible for. It will begin in June when Apple releases the iPhone 5 with NFC (Near Field Communication) capabilities. It will allow users to replace their credit cards (and thus their wallets) with their iPhone.