I have seen many hypotheses surrounding Ciscoâ€™s possible use of Tribe.net and Five Across assets. Some see Cisco enabling internal social networks for its corporate customers. Some see Cisco enabling its corporate customers to implement sites that gather customer feedback on their products e.g. a social networking site sponsored by Sony to bring together its customers in order to better organise the feedback and dialog with its end customers. The funniest one I have come across is that acquiring social networking software will drive more traffic to Cisco routers and switches. Cisco's official stance is that it is experimenting with some kind of an entertaiment operating system which it will be selling to media companies rather than telcos.
Anyway, I am going to add another hypothesis today. Cisco will (or should) add social networking software as an application server that inter-works with underlying telco/enterprise call management platform (There you go. We canâ€™t have enough of telephony). Result: its telco customers looking for a more comprehensive Internet services strategy will have an integrated and off-the-shelf solution for offering social networking capability to their customers.
Telcos can potentially offer more meaningful social networking experience. They can optimize the experience around local communities to start with. Majority of Internet users donâ€™t have an international friend circle. More than half of the Internet users worldwide use email addresses provided by their ISP rather than having a yahoo / gmail / hotmail account. What it means is that telcos/ISPs have potential to leverage their relationship with the customers to engage them with telco sponsored social networking sites.
Social networking services could also be places where a telco could offer/test its Voice 2.0 services. That way a telco could start small with a Voice 2.0 application and not require a monster 2 million BHCA Voice 2.0 platform inside its network.
Even on the corporate side the best way for Cisco to introduce its social networking application is through the Cisco Call Manager. That would encourage the use of web based unified messaging and other web mashups that otherwise remain under-utilized. Whether Cisco lets the system integrator or telco implement/support the application or decides to provide support by itself remains to be seen. The WebEx acquisition would suggest that Cisco is headed toward a services model.
One question arises though. Why did Cisco acquire Five Across (developer of social networking software) as well as Tribe.net (provider of social networking service), and why not stop at just the former. I guess in normal course Cisco would get feedback of telcos for the applications it sells to them. In case of social networking, acquiring Five Across alone would not have given the service side of the feedback. Hence the subsequent Tribe.net acquisition.
Anyway, this post is not really about Ciscoâ€™s acquisition of social networking assets. What it is trying to convey is that social networking as an application can and should be integrated with the overall call management platforms offered by telecom vendors. That would serve as a decent overall strategy for Voice 2.0 for large telecom vendors since social networking, as a Portal 2.0, is driving the use of Voice 2.0 applications.