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Why the social networks are falling apart

April 26, 2014 07:15 AM ET

Here's an oversimplified example: An ad for a Starbucks promotion presented to you in a mobile game (sold through Facebook's upcoming ad network) might be based on knowledge that you spend a ton of time at Starbucks -- information harvested from the Moves app.

As you can see, there's no Facebook -- no social network -- involved in this series of events. But Facebook gets paid anyway.

Twitter is embracing a "mini" version of this approach.

Twitter outgrows Twitter

Twitter acquired Vine in October 2012. As Facebook did with its social acquisitions, Twitter kept Vine separate and didn't brand it as a Twitter product.

And last year Twitter acquired a mobile ad network of its own called MoPub.

Then Twitter this month acquired a company called Gnip, which specializes in the harvesting of social signals for advertising and marketing.

The control and ownership of Vine, MoPub and Gnip demonstrate a shift in thinking. Twitter is no longer a social microblogging service, but instead a personalized advertising company that harvests user signals from wherever and then displays personalized ads wherever.

Which brings us full circle back to Google.

Google outgrows Google+

Google this week announced the departure of the guy who, in Larry Page's words, "built Google+ from nothing." But Vic Gundotra's departure appears to be part of a larger de-emphasis of Google+ as a social network that unifies everything.

The chatter in Silicon Valley is that Google will keep Google+ going, but invest more heavily in Google+ as a platform, rather than as an all-purpose destination social network.

In other words, with Facebook outgrowing Facebook and Twitter outgrowing Twitter, there's no need for Google to drive so many forced integrations with other Google properties.

Google has realized the same thing Facebook and Twitter have realized: There's no need for unity. Ubiquity and diversity -- what Google has succeeded with all along -- is more powerful.

The new model is to harvest social signals from wherever and sell personalized ads wherever.

Of course, none of the social networks are going anywhere. They're still important both to their companies and to their users, and they still play an essential role in user identity and data harvesting and, for Twitter and Facebook at least, as places to display advertising.

What's important for these companies from a future-facing business perspective is to have multiple mobile apps that harvest multiple dimensions of personal data that can be applied to highly customized and personalized mobile advertising at multiple locations.

The social networks are falling apart -- they're breaking up into multiple sites and apps that do in a scattered way what used to happen centrally.

If you're in the personalized advertising business, why restrict yourself to a single social network? Users don't.

This article, "Why the Social Networks Are Falling Apart," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

writes about technology and tech culture. You can contact Mike and learn more about him at http://Google.me/+MikeElgan. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.

Read more about Social Media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.



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