One of the points former Tribe CEO Mark Pincus made in his keynote address at Interactive Local Media '04 was that there were too many silos in local and across the Internet — "disconnected marketplaces," he called them. Pincus argued for interoperability and open standards to allow users to interact with members of different networks without having to necessarily join those networks.
Now, Silicon Beat reports on a new initiative ("GoingOn") that could potentially sit on top of different social networking sites and allow users to interact with one another without having to join specific, individual networks.
Silicon Beat writers Marshall and Bazeley point out the challenges with such an approach, but it mirrors the "meta" trend going on elsewhere online: Travel (e.g., Mobissimo, FareChase, Pinpoint Travel) and Classifieds (e.g., Oodle, SimplyHired, HotJobs) are examples.
The key challenge of social networking sites is critical mass — attracting and retaining users. This is a challenge that every single one of these sites faces: Yahoo! 360, MSN Spaces, Lycos Circles, Friendster, LinkedIn, Orkut, etc. Even as AOL has "torn down the wall," other portals/sites are trying to erect an "invisible wall" with features and functionality that promote loyalty and make switching costs higher (email is the classic example).
It will be interesting to see if GoingOn or related applications are resisted or accepted by portals and independent social networks. An analogy may be IM interoperability. After several years it still doesn't really exist, which points to potential challenges ahead.