Recent announcements from Plaxo and Facebook speak to a trend toward improving the quality of the “social graph.” Plaxo revealed what happens when users have a choice of family, friend, or business as categories for relationships, rather than being forced to declare all connections as “friends.” (See charts below.) Facebook implemented more granular privacy and sharing controls.
Why the move toward quality? Because the data portability drum is beating louder. Soon friends lists will become portable, which means that each user will be able to take their local piece of the social graph with them to other sites. And when a friends list becomes useful across many sites, there begins to be a reason to invest in it.
When Plaxo launched Pulse last August, it broke with tradition and introduced the first relationship categorization system for a social network. That put friction into the system, and was therefore a bit of risk. What if people weren’t willing to take the time? Based on the chart below, it looks like the gamble paid off!
Chris Messina just did a post on this topic, too, though from a more technical perspective, thinking through whether and how we can better model real-world relationships via things like XFN.