Here’s the difference between social networking and social computing: The underlying premise of social networking is “help people make, keep and grow their circle of friends.” It enables the like-minded to find one another. The whole Facebook Beacon thing, where users are alerted to the purchases of friends, is the latest example of an application built to keep friends networked. Social computing, on the other hand, is less invasive. Its reason for being is to assist users in the creation and posting of content, commerce, and art to the web. It’s not about the “share” or the size of one’s friends list.
I work for Zude, a social computing platform, so I’m biased. But we provide tools – both advanced and rudimentary — that give people unprecedented freedom to be Web authors. We don’t tell them what to post or with whom to share. That’s up to them. (You can certainly add contacts and doing messaging on Zude, but that’s not what keeps us up at night.)
Developers of social networks spend their time trying to figure out ways to insinuate their products into users’ lives so they spend more time on the property. Developers of social computing applications spend their time thinking up ways to make users more powerful Web authors.