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"A NEW fad is sweeping across Silicon Valley, causing excitement, confusion and hyperbole not seen since the dotcom bubble. It began in May, when Mark Zuckerberg, ten days after turning 23, took the stage in a San Francisco warehouse and announced that he was opening up Facebook to outside programmers. Anyone can now build little programs, or - widgets, into the network. To illustrate his idea, Mr Zuckerberg projected onto the wall behind him a social graphic pattern of nodes representing Facebook users and the links among them.

Since then Facebook and the idea of the social graph have become the favourite...

But unlike other networks, social networks lose value once they go beyond a certain size. The value of a social network is defined not only by who's on it, but by who's excluded, says Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley forecaster. Despite their name, therefore, they do not benefit from the network effect. Already, social networks such as "SmallWorld", an exclusive site for the rich and famous, are proliferating. Such networks recognise that people want to hobnob with a chosen few, not to be spammed by random friend-requests.

...the future of social networking will not be one big social graph but instead myriad small communities on the internet to replicate the millions that exist offline. No single company, therefore, can capture the social graph."

"Social graph-iti", From The Economist

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