The Social, Mobile Web: An Entourage In Your Pocket

There’s been a series of announcements this last two weeks, many which are happening here at SXSW, yet it’s important to look at what these changes mean as a collective, here’s my take:

While working on my report the future of the social web, I was white boarding out ideas with Josh Bernoff on some of the changes that will be happening as social technologies become more important. It’s clear that as mobile devices become more prevalent, and social communities grow online that they’ll take main stage in our personal and business lives.

As I was explaining to him how I think they could be all pieced together, I said “your friends will be with you as you travel”, being an expert wordsmith he suggested it’s more akin to having an “entourage in your pocket”. The thought is that everyone will feel just a bit more secure and confident knowing they can instantly access their community.

One of the key changes is the access that we’ll have anytime and anywhere to our trusted network of friends, family, and colleagues –and not just asynchronously, but in real time. Here at SXSW, Facebook announced that it would tie to iPhone extending mobile application to be present wherever users are at. This impacts both retrieval of information from your network –and publishing to your network in real time.

What to expect when the mobile and social web combine:

Access to your trusted network anywhere
We know from data, that users trust peers more than any other group, and now, consumers have access to their most trusted network wherever they go. Take for example my colleague Nate Elliott who recently moved to Vancouver, using Tweetdeck he just asked what the best restaurants are in his area. Imagine consulting your peers (or perhaps their peers) in near real time for what they think of big ticket items like TVs or cars, or even more daily items like checking to see which one of your friends rated a restaurant in Yelp, or a product in Amazon before you buy it in the physical store.

Access to your trusted network anytime
As we’ve seen from Twitter, and now the recent Facebook redesign, the web appears to be moving more real time. We’re starting to see life streams and activity streams as more common design elements in mainstream websites even like Yahoo YOS, and Microsoft Live. We may even see uses of asking your peer network directly in Twitter in real time maybe tools like Tweetdeck that now connect Twitter and Facebook, granting the ability to shout out “has anyone had experience with this product? Love to hear your thoughts before I buy”

Growth of location specific applications
When you start to think of what this means for the next generation of apps, we will start to see location specific applications. Perhaps you’ve heard of mobile based social networks like Loopt, Whrrl, and Brightkite, yet these applications could provide further context to users as they maneuver the terrain. An example could be of an individual being a fan of a product in Facebook, like Starbucks, an iPhone can already track where you are on Google Maps, but now can find the nearest cafe to you. What’s the change? Now it can recommend product specials for you as you get closer, enticing users with their favorite beverages. Mix in social, and it may suggest for you to invite your nearby friends, which would result in a discount for both of you or other reward.

We’ve yet to fully explore what the real time, and location specific social web has to bring, the opportunities are nearly limitless. Love to hear from you what potential applications could be built.