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Rohit Varma
VP – Internet Services, Aptech Ltd.

Web Innovation 2007
On this presentation
An optimist’s look at the social networking
To identify opportunities for all-would be
entrepreneurs & intrapreneurs
With inputs from my learnings at, a leading portal & from
Yo4Ya, a social networking startup
 SN defined
 What are really SN ? What do people do
on them ?
 Why are SN important ?
 How many SN can there be ?
 In which areas can SN deliver maximum
 Some predictions re. SN
My Web 2.0 for Day 2.0 !

Web 2.0 = People
Web 1.0 = Products
I. Social Networking defined
A Social Network site* =
(semi-persistent public commentary on the
A traversable, publicly articulated social
network displayed in relation to the profile

* Danah Boyd : Social Networking Sites Definition & History (2007)
A Social Network
Social networks classified
General : all-purpose
Specialized : for limited applications /
What people do on “general” SN
Manwatching (scraps/news feeds)
Ask questions
Reply to questions
Comment (scrap / wall / testimonial)
Share their World (profile)
=> Like at a college canteen
Some truths about SN sites
SN sites are not about “networking,” but
about “networks”
Strengthen existing “weak” ties more than
create new ones
Dunbar’s Number : Rule of 150, the
number of relationships humans can
The Power of SN :
Trust + Interest
Traversable, publicly articulated Social Network
create the trust
Comments (e.g. scraps) are what creates the

For success, design a social network around
trust + interest
SN : An evolved way to
communicate - I
IM : talking to friends, synchronous
Chat : talking to strangers
pages : profiles, on any topic, but
strangers and non-traversable
Forums : talk around one interest
SMS : talking to friends, asynchronous
SN :?
SN : An evolved way to
communicate – II
( Legend : Green = successful Net products, Red = Failed products)

Feature For Synch / Profile Comments Publicly
Friends / Asynch- Yes / articulated,
Strangers ronous No traversable SN
IM Friends Synch No N.A. No

Chat Strangers Synch No N.A. No
Home- Strangers Asynch Yes No No
Forums Strangers Asynch No Yes No

SN Friends & Synch & Yes Yes Yes
Strangers Asynch
II. What really are SN :
Social networking sites are an evolved
form of communication
Lot of direct & indirect communication
Framework exists to increase interactions
with people whom one doesn’t know well
Properly managed, SN offer value-adds to
end-users over other forms of
The goal of every SN site :
Online Community
Successful network becomes a community
To build a strong community
- seed (e.g. have founder members who
are passionate)
- feed (e.g. recognize contributors)
- weed (remove troublemakers)
- use a moderator
- don’t be in a hurry : takes time to build
Success of general SN :
Implications for Internet business
Portal usage growth last few years has
been linear
General SN sites given fillip to site traffic :
Usage of typical SN site ~ 3-4x that of
conventional portals
- More time per session
- More page views
Consequent buoyancy to Internet ad
III : Importance of Social Networks
Trust biggest issue on the Net. Easy to
connect people on Internet, but these
are usually strangers.
SN a good way to establish relevant
connections between people, thus
maximize trust among people.
A SN can thus be used to make decisions
involving trust i.e. a high risk decision
(~job, investments, marriage, …)
Leading SN sites & how they built
Orkut, Mixi : invite only
Cyworld : authenticate using your ID
Facebook : earlier .edu college network,
now via privacy settings
My Space : Tom ( Friend )

Build trust to leverage growth of network
IV. How many SN can there
be ?
7 examples of SN / communities
people will always be interested in
 My Classmates (including alumni)
 My Locality (hunt for a maid, car pool, rally for
municipal cause)
 My Profession (across the world, not country-
 My Colleagues (on the Intranet ?)
 My Family (+ extended family + ancestors)
 My Passion (hobby / activity / views)
 My Pain points (unique to each)
How many SN can there be ?
Thus, each individual can be a member of
2-7 SN networks
Each SN limited in size to < ~ few
hundred members
V. In which areas can SN
deliver maximum value
7 (of many) opportunities
for SN in India
 Finance : Investor penetration ~ 2-3% today;
advice from network of investors known to me
(to convert non-investor to investor)
 Health : Urgency in lifestyle change e.g.
diabetes , advice through people known to me
 Traffic congestion : Inhibitions in strangers
joining a car pool; minimize same through a SN
 Jobs : Should I consider this job / accept this
offer , advice from people known to me ?
 Matrimony : Can someone introduce me or
provide a reference regarding that family
(network of parents) ?
7 (of many) opportunities
for SN in India
1. Local municipal improvements : Social
Network of active citizens
2. Charities : Choosing among thousands
of options an issue today; minimize trust
issues via network of current donors
To sum up
Social networks an evolved form of
Internet communication
Can enable increase trust among people
Many decisions in society involve or will
collaboration among people who don’t
really know each other directly
SN a good tool to enable such decisions
VI. SN : Some predictions - I
 Today’s generic SN sites e.g. Facebook
are the first phase of the rise of SN
 Many new special SN can yet be
possibly created : Each of us are a
potential member of ~ 7 such networks
 SN sites are one of the best tools ever
towards building trust online
VI. SN : Some predictions - II
1. Separately, every Internet site can and
will have one or more social networking
2. White label (templatized, plug-and-play)
social networking sites, mostly free, will
arise for use by lay people to meet
above needs
3. Biggest impact of SN sites will be
towards various societal issues