I've come to accept* that social networks are pretty much a thing, and I'm okay with that. Like cell phones, I don't actually have to like them to realize they're kind of necessary to communication in the modern world.
Now Microsoft is fielding its own social network, Socl. Why? Google can barely leverage Google+ off the ground. Facebook is king of the social network heap. There's plenty of room on the field for also-rans for niche markets, but trying to unseat it is probably a losing proposition.
With sites like eBay and YouTube, it makes as much sense as anything to set up a competing service. It doesn't particularly matter if that cute cat video is hosted on YouTube or Vimeo or Tumblr or anywhere else. I can see it from any browser, share the link to any network, and, with a few exceptions, I don't even need to be a registered user or logged in to see it.
Social networks are a different proposition. Once you're entrenched, you're invested, it's pointless to migrate to a new service unless everyone you know migrates with you. You're locked in. That's why everybody freaks out whenever Facebook makes a change, but nobody ever quits. I only have 71 'friends' on Facebook, but only three of them use G+, so switching is a losing proposition, even for me.
What we [still] need is an open social network protocol. You set up your account with one site, create a sort of 'persistent online identity' (but one that can be logged out of at will) and start connecting and sharing. You can search for and add to your network and share with friends that are on different networks, just like you can sent emails to people that use a different email provider. The big social networks decide what goes in the 'standard' data that becomes publicly searchable, and the language used to communicate between the networks, but each service will have its own privacy controls, contact organization schemes, and apps, so you choose the one with the interface you like, and it doesn't particularly matter if all my buddies didn't switch with me, they can still get my updates and I can get theirs. App makers would be able to tailor their programs to each interface (as they would with differing smartphone OSes), or essentially become mini social networks in their own right (you think Zynga couldn't already?).
*realized: 'going viral' is the new '15 minutes of fame' -- Wait a minute, didn't someone say I already have my 15 minutes? That started a giant screaming war? What was that about, anyway? Oh. Yeah. Interestingly, most of what I hated about Facebook has been fixed.
Thinking Out Loud
all of my ideas are works in progress
- We Can Has Open Social Network Protocol Nao, Plox?