I've been hearing whispers that Google will integrate their social network Orkut with the mobile social networking app they acquired last year, Dodgeball. While it's not rocket science to make the connection between the two products (both are social networking), the reasons to join the two are becoming more compelling... Here are some of them:
1) Social networking has been the biggest thing going in 2006 (MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc). And it looks like mobile will be big next year. So SNS + Mobile seems the logical sequel.
2) There is also the trend of meta-social networks, like Marc Canter's PeopleAggregator. It was actually the latest New Scientist magazine which rang a little bell in my mind about this. An article called Living Online: This is your space (full article not online yet unfortunately) concluded by saying that an individual's identity will be managed by a meta-network, which we will carry with us "in small wireless devices so that our virtual identities become seamlessly integrated with the real world." That online/offline balance is one of the main things mobile Web has going for it. So meta-SNS + Mobile is another trend I think we'll see emerge...
"...I thought it would be cool to syndicate my Dodgeball check-ins into my Facebook profile, via their blog (i.e. RSS feed) to notes import feature. It worked pretty well [...] and it's sort of neat that these two social networking sites are open even slightly, allowing such co-mingling of data."
So co-mingling of SNS data, to borrow Mihai's neat phrase, is another trend that is hotting up.
4) Demographics are similar between Orkut and Dodgeball. All evidence points to Dodgeball being used mostly by young people. In Brazil, home to 65-70% of the Orkut user base, it is mostly 13-30 year olds who use Orkut. And in my recent Top Web Apps in Brazil post, it was established that Brazil is a sophisticated Web market (at least in the main cities).
In terms of mobile usage, Brazil is nearly at 100 Million users according to a recent report:
"The number of Brazilians owning mobile phones rose to 94.9 million in August, up 2% from July, according to preliminary figures released Monday by telecommunications regulator Anatel. Brazilian mobile phone ownership rose more than 20% when compared with September of 2005, when the number of mobile phones was 78.9 million."
While obviously Orkut + Dodgeball is not all about Brazil, it's probably a good pointer to how complementary the two services are. However I imagine Google will target the US market first, as they always do.
While there's no firm evidence yet that Orkut will merge with Dodgeball, I believe it's just a matter of time. John Battelle even kind of predicted it back in May 2005, with this comment: "What is Dodgeball? I dunno, but is seems like Orkut + Mobile done right, I think."
In any case, the high level trends point to it happening soon: SNS + Mobile; meta-SNS + Mobile; Co-mingling of data between SNS; similar demographics.