We need something that combines blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, emails, videos, voice chat… and who knows all else… into an ultimate tool.
The company selling the Ultimate Tool™ will naturally have to be profitable: they will need to have a solid business model.
Users of the Ultimate Tool™ will also have to be able to earn money from it. Although registering for it will be free, it will have to put producers in consumers easily in touch with each other. They will have to feel that if they pay anything for using the Ultimate Tool™, they’ll get something in return — more than what they invest, in fact. They should be able to make good business using the tool. That also means making payments easy.
It will need to be something very hard to replicate in order to be successful and unique. There is just on Amazon.com, one eBay, and one Google, although there are certainly a lot of competitors. None have managed to replicate every single feature of those, and this means that those giants have managed to be, after a decade, at the top of the food chain.
On the other hand, it will have to address interoperability issues — an easy, and more important, a standard way of communicating between similar Ultimate Tools™, so that you can use your login and your data across Ultimate Tools™ easily. But the user will be able to choose which Ultimate Tool™ he belongs to (imagine a collection of Facebook clones, all inter-operating, all posting to each other’s status, all sending messages to each other — it would be your choice to pick one and use it, and it would look the same way, no matter where you’d log in from).
It will definitely need to be highly interactive. “Comment-based” social networking is asynchronous by nature, and it has its place — on blogs, on forums, on early Web 2.0 tools — but right now, as Facebook and Twitter are showing, real-time (or close-to-real-time) interaction is important!
And, well, it couldn’t be an Ultimate Tool™ if it looked just like any of the hundreds of thousands web-based social networking tools — after all, in that case, it would just be one of many 🙂 and not an ultimate tool.
I propose that the look will have to be… dramatically different.
Instead of being cool widgets and jQuery’ed, flashy webpages… I might humbly suggest that it could be… 3D?
In that case…
… we already have it 😉 It’s called Second Life® and it’s available today.
So, if you’re still blogging about who will win the social networking race, Twitter or Facebook, my answer is: in 5 years, nobody will remember either of them, but we’ll be discussing the old days of the bursting of the Web 2.0 bubble happily logged in to Second Life (or an OpenSim-based grid connected to LL’s own). And sure, I’m quite prepared to be laughed at my bold claims, but then again, I’m used to be laughed at anyway. 🙂