High(speed) society

It is no surprise that as the Internet has entrenched itself in the lives of regular folks all around the world in the past nine years, people are spending more of their time and money online.

Communities of netizens has essentially become a brand new society – a new society of digerati. In the end, the net is all about communication, and as it evolves, it will become a conduit for communicating with people, and so-called social networking technologies will become in demand. The decline in corporate travel budgets doesn’t hurt.

Currently, we have email, instant messengers, forums and webcams. We have chatrooms, blogs, wikis, and even virtual worlds. People get married online. But netizens still lack a way of being truly interactive, cohesive communities.

socialmap.gifMicrosoft Research has been pretty busy this year trying to tackle this problem. Their first jab at it was a P2P app called Threedegrees that allowed desktop communities to share music and communicate via MSN Messenger. Threedegrees looks stillborn though since it doesn’t seem to have addressed the real social divide – although its juvenile interface and the fact it could knock out your Internet connection probably didn’t help.

Their second jab is via something called “Wallop“, but not very much is publicly known about it. Basically, by combining a bunch of collaborative tools such as photo sharing, document synchronization, profiling, blogging and RSS, they hope to allow information to be easily shared by online communities.

Some tools, such as the Social Map (aka MSR Connections), lets you visually manage relationships and identify points of knowledge transfer. This is astoundingly powerful stuff, because if you need to find someone or something, you can immediately zero in on who knows what.

It’s powerful because such software can allow people to interact in a natural social context, and information to aggregate and flow easily within a community. It’s a 24-hour electronic wine and cheese.

MS isn’t the only one interested, many other companies are pitching similar concepts. But it’s coming, whether it’s Microsoft or someone else that finally pulls it off.