Over the past decade, the Web has become an increasingly social place. Social activity has moved beyond message boards to become a wider part of the Internet. Most people have heard of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; indeed, many people now have a profile on a social network. The term social media is part of our lives for better or for worse, and expressions such as citizen journalism are commonplace. Facebook alone has more than 1 billion registered people. What is different in this new world? People will come to you with a prior existence; they are on the Web already.
You need to recognize and incorporate this change into your design and development processes. Your website needs to offer something genuinely useful and become a home away from home for your community; the people coming to your site need to feel comfortable talking to other people there and keen to come back for more.
The hardest part of creating a social application happens before any code is written. Understanding human behavior and creating something that fits in and perhaps changes current behavior is a tough nut to crack. There will be plenty of technical discussion on the web but every one will agree that THE Web is changing, as well as some emerging patterns for widespread social interaction, where individuals act as a composite person across dozens of sites on the social web.
The Distributed Nature of Everything!
The traditional model for a website is a centralized server and software. More services are becoming distributed, such as music and video file distribution from you tube with social sharing features, or embedding a video on a post, sharing your travelling habits are on trip advisor, longer thoughts on Facebook notes for friends or on your blog, and shorter ones are on Twitter.
In addition to the social web, users are making fast adaptation of real-time Web. There are still blog posts, photographs, and longer writing, but being able to deliver content as it happens is becoming an important service. Twitter leads in this area, but news services and similar businesses are also involved.
APIs and Their Importance
To effectively create services on the Internet, you need to create an API, a means of distributing your content and system behaviours across the Web. APIs let users connect to your application without working through your web interface, allowing them to build new applications on your work. Some companies fear people not coming to their site, resulting in lost ad banner revenue, but it is far better to reach out via an API and create long-term active users than to make transient income from a few click-through ads. The more someone uses your services, the more you can learn about him. Making this work demands good infrastructure planning and sound web operations otherwise, your company will not thrive.
Collective Intelligence: The New Artificial Intelligence
Many of the newer web applications start out with community at their core, acting as collective intelligence gatherers. Built on an architecture of participation, they encourage individuals to enrich the site for themselves, and through this, engender a network effect that shows the richness available to all.
A classic example of this is tagging, adding a tag helps individuals find information again, but it also labels the item for someone else to find. Community is a core part of these collective intelligence applications. The design process to make these works well ; covers much of the same ground as discussion-led community sites or relevant news display on a news site or relevant social trends or recommended search terms on Google or Bing!