If two months' worth of perpetual hype and hearsay about Facebook have given you social-networking fatigue, it might be time to chug an energy drink--looks like we will see another serious entry into the field on Monday.
The rumors started, as they often do, with a single blog post from a well-read blogger. After attending the "Lunch 2.0" event at Facebook's offices last week, Robert Scoble started up a minifirestorm of speculation when he recounted a conversation he'd had there with John McCrea, Plaxo's vice president of marketing.
Apparently, this coming Monday, the address book and calendar synchronization hub will be making a move toward a more standard variety of social networking--aiming directly at Facebook. VentureBeat reports that this new network will be called "Pulse," and it has provided some screenshots.
I've e-mailed Plaxo representatives and will report back when I've heard more.
One of Facebook's biggest flaws, Scoble wrote, is that content on the site is completely closed off if you aren't a member. Plaxo will be attempting to address this through extensive privacy controls that include an "open" option. The real kicker is that you'll have the ability to group people into custom categories of friends; this is something that LiveJournal users have been able to do for years, but Facebook currently has no division other than "full profile" and "limited profile" displays. Plaxo's Pulse, from what we've been hearing, will be both open and controllable.
But do we really need a new social-networking site to correct the flaws of the ones that already exist?
Scoble doesn't think that Pulse will be a "Facebook killer," and I agree, but for different reasons. Even though the "grown-ups" have been signing on to Facebook since the launch of the developers' platform gave the company some street cred, it's still largely a time-waster.
Plaxo already has a reputation as an organization tool--do we really think that's going to appeal to the millions of Facebook users who have been installing iLike, Hot or Not, and--heaven forbid--(Fluff)Friends apps on their profiles?
LinkedIn might have reason to worry about this, but unless Pulse turns out to offer something really innovative that we haven't even dreamed up yet, Facebook doesn't. It may, however, give Facebook reason to look into offering more "friends groups" controls.