I'm playing with social networks now. There is a huge variety of ones, with different aims and coverage, but all of them require a lot of time and don't use in full.
I've understood several stages of relationships with the net:
1. Awareness - somebody lets a person know, may be describes main features and advantages.
2. Interface test - here a person registers for a network (by invitation or through automatic process) and makes first steps on the building networks through checking invited friend's connections.
3. Network building - (s)he uses search tools, matching possibilities, checks colleagues, classmates.
4. Additional services check - the most useful and user-frienly are adopted, others are ignored.
5. Network modration - after a certain effort the network is updated automatically. User just moderates it.
6. Intensive use of the network - most of users rarely come to this stage.
The aims of creating a social network are the following:
1. Stay in touch with friends - network here is an interactive adressbook or messenger.
2. Active participationin social life - creating and attending different networks, groups.
3. Job search engine.
4. Professional network creation - for knowledge sharing.
Well, each of the type has its own target users, I can't say that my nets are not important. some of them are not just developped to be useful.
Most probable trends are:
1. Entertainment (social life) nets will merge, since it is hard to manage several ones.
2. Professional nets are on contrary will intimidate and increase entrance barriers due to the level of sharing of information rise.
I participate in the following nets:
* Facebook - social, entertainment, mostly to stay in touch with my IE classmates and spanish friends.
* LinkedIn - social+professional, since most of the contacts business related (IE + some external).
* Xing - entered today, job search + professional.
* MoiKrug - russian net, started as a contact book, now I use for professional purposes - job search + stay in touch with russian professionals.
* Odnoklassniki.Ru (Classmates) - I'm using it since two days ago. Curious to find elementary school classmates and see them now. While surfing thru it, I understood that I started forgetting even university friends. Just to stay in touch.
* Vkontakte - russian clone (copycat?) of facebook (even design). Non developped forme, just in case, cause I have a good friend there. Plus, making an experiment of networking building.
Well, when building, networks require a certain effort and a lot of time. When buit, they save time through providing quick answers and help a lot if correctly used.
As my friend Mauricio says, network should work, when it worths the time spent for building it.