Verizon’s Loopt: another sign that social networks are going mobile

Remember when people started getting really upset that AOL’s Instant Messenger wasn’t compatible with competing services, oh, I don’t know, in, maybe, 1998 or ’99?  Within six months or so, the number of software companies started creating clever workarounds grew exponentially (OK, arithmatically at least 🙂 ) spawning the birth of  an IM-based tidal wave of innovation which still hasn’t crested today.  You know what? I think we’re about at that point with social networking and mobile now.

Heaven knows there’s a growing number of services that are layering social networking onto other forms of communication.  Look at highbrow blogs like /message, written by neo-artiste/Web shaman Stowe Boyd, and you’ll hear talk of “the flow,”  effortless streams of social intelligence which mount up to an integrated feed. (At least, I think that’s what Stowe is saying; as much as I admire the man, with whom I once had a wonderfully cordial lunch, he’s a bit opaque for me.)

On a more practical day-to-day level, deals like the following seem to be a pivotal step toward integrating social networking as a permanent part of wireless comunications. If I’m understanding Mashable right, Verizon’s going to embed social mapping service Loopt into some of its services in a way which connects users with both their AIM buddies and social-networked friends. Loopt, which looks very cool, allows users to find friends based on their location, share status information and photos, and highlight places and events they’re suggesting that their friends use.

The thing is, I’m not sure how Loopt (or any other service) is going to get past the barriers preventing people from creating a single “social map” for people’s friends on all of the major social networks–which has to be the ultimate goal. After all, social networking is like networking of any other kind; the more connections you have, and the richer connections they are, the more valuable the network is. Verizon execs have everything to gain, too, by fostering these connections, as they addict people to a valuable service by doing so.

Now, the question is whether Verizon–or another carrier–believes in this strongly enough to buy a major social network of its own. I know people haven’t really been surfacing this idea, but think about it–wouldn’t VerizonBook make more sense than MicroHoo?  I say yes, most definitely. How about you?
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