From Six Degrees to ChatGPT

When I started this blog in early 2004, one of my original goals was to track the various social networking platforms and the various collaboration tools that were beginning to infiltrate the enterprise. I was gathering this information as part of a planned doctoral program to study the social informatics around collaboration technologies to better understand their impact on the modern workplace. While I set aside my doctoral ambitions long ago, I remain fascinated by the growth and evolution of collaboration technology.

Six Degrees logoThe first social networking platform was called “Six Degrees” and was created in 1997 by Andrew Weinreich. The website was named after the “six degrees of separation” concept, which suggests that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Six Degrees allowed users to create profiles, invite friends, and browse other users’ profiles. The website was shut down in 2001, but it laid the foundation for the social networking platforms that followed, such as Friendster, MySpace, Ryze, and Facebook.

The Role of Social Networking in the Modern Workplace

Social networking plays an important role in modern organizational collaboration by providing a platform for employees to connect and communicate with each other in real-time. Social networking tools can help organizations to break down silos and promote cross-functional collaboration, which is critical for driving innovation, improving decision-making, and achieving business goals. Tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing, and collaborative workspaces – which have been added as native features within most enterprise applications – make it easier for employees to share information, exchange ideas, and work together on projects in real-time. This can increase productivity and efficiency, reduce duplication of effort, and improve the quality of work.

Social networking tools can also foster a sense of community and improve employee engagement by providing a platform for employees to connect and interact with each other beyond their immediate work teams. This can help to build relationships and create a more positive work culture, enabling employees to work together more effectively and efficiently while also fostering a sense of community and engagement within the organization.

Here are some ways social networking has influenced the modern workplace:

  • Communication and collaboration. Social networking platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Workplace by Facebook have made communication and collaboration easier and more efficient. They allow employees to communicate in real-time, share files, and collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world.
  • Recruitment and hiring. Social networking platforms such as LinkedIn have made it easier for recruiters to find and attract candidates. These platforms allow recruiters to search for candidates based on their skills and experience and to connect with them directly.
  • Marketing and advertising. Social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become important tools for marketing and advertising. Companies can use these platforms to reach a large audience, engage with customers, and build their brand.
  • Knowledge sharing and learning. Social networking platforms can be used for knowledge sharing and learning. Employees can share information and best practices with each other, and companies can use social networking platforms to deliver training and development programs.
  • Employee engagement. Social networking can also be used to improve employee engagement. By using platforms like Workplace by Facebook or Yammer, companies can create a community where employees can connect with each other, share ideas, and provide feedback.

Without a doubt social networking has had a significant impact on the modern workplace, enabling more efficient communication, improved collaboration, and increased employee engagement. But where do we go from here?

The Future of Social Networking

It is difficult to predict the future of social networking with certainty, but the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and capabilities seems to be ushering in a new era of automation and collaboration. We’re already beginning to see some potential trends and developments that could shape the future of social networking:

  • Increased focus on privacy. There has been growing concern about privacy and data security on social networking platforms. In the future, we may see social networking platforms implementing stronger privacy protections and giving users more control over their data.
  • More use of augmented reality and virtual reality. Social networking platforms may increasingly incorporate augmented reality and virtual reality technologies, allowing users to interact with each other in new ways and creating more immersive social experiences.
  • Greater integration with artificial intelligence. Social networking platforms may increasingly incorporate artificial intelligence technologies to personalize users’ experiences and provide more targeted advertising.
  • Expansion into niche markets. As social networking platforms become more specialized and focus on specific communities, we may see the emergence of new social networking platforms that cater to specific niches.
  • New forms of social networking. We may see the emergence of new forms of social networking that are based on emerging technologies such as blockchain or decentralized networks.

Of course, these ideas just scrape the surface of possibilities. The future of social networking is likely to be shaped by a combination of new technologies, evolving user needs, and changing regulatory and societal trends.

How Will AI Impact Social?

With Microsoft’s integration of OpenAI and ChatGPT into Bing and (soon) the Office productivity suite, the impact of AI on social networking and collaboration is a hot topic. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already playing a significant role in social, and it is likely to become even more important in the future. Some potential roles that AI could play in social networking include the following:

  • Personalization. AI can be used to personalize users’ social networking experiences by analyzing their interests, preferences, and behavior. This can help social networking platforms to provide more relevant content and advertising to users.
  • Content moderation. AI can be used to automatically detect and remove inappropriate content such as hate speech, harassment, and fake news. This can help to improve the quality of content on social networking platforms and create a safer environment for users.
  • Chatbots. AI-powered chatbots can be used to provide customer support, answer questions, and engage with users on social networking platforms. This can help to improve user engagement and satisfaction.
  • Analytics. AI can be used to analyze social networking data to identify trends, patterns, and insights. This can help companies to better understand their customers and make more informed decisions.
  • Image and video analysis. AI can be used to automatically tag and categorize images and videos on social networking platforms. This can help users to find relevant content more easily and can help social networking platforms to provide more targeted advertising.

Overall, AI has the potential to transform the way we use social networking by making it more personalized, engaging, and efficient. However, it is important to ensure that AI is used in an ethical and transparent way to protect users’ privacy and prevent the spread of misinformation….but that’s a BIG topic that I’ll have to cover in a future post….

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (, leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.

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  1. March 1, 2023

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