Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Social Networking: How Many Portals You Need?

A few days ago, Unni posted about the malicious and criminal use of social networking portals. I know this debate has been there for a long time. In fact, like most of our other topics of interest, this one keeps coming back to our drawing rooms and cafe tables every once in a while with a new story break, a murder, a kidnap, a virus, a fraud...

We follow up such stories with great interest, collect every detail, add a few more hits to those sites, debate vigorously on using this new media discreetly, blast those unscrupulous fellows, and yeah, get back to our social networking portals and daily chores with the same interest and continue with the life just as always.

Well, I don't have anything against the social networking portals. In fact, I'm a regular visitor on at least a couple of such sites, Orkut and LinkedIn. But there is something that annoys me every time I check my inbox: someone has sent me an invite from x portal, and another from y portal. And, to my surprise, this someone and the other are my friends already connected to me on Orkut or LinkedIn.

I could never figure out why someone who is already connected to me requires me to get connected on yet another portal, just to add to my collection of user names and passwords? Or is it that they think I don't have anything worthwhile to do than browsing through profiles on x, y, and z portals?

And then, again, a couple of days later--many time after you are trapped, too--,they write to you, apologizing for the invite, saying it was auto-generated by that portal after trawling through their address books. Trawl through their address book? Sounds phishy, doesn't it? Well, yeah, it is another form of phishing. But then, when you ask more questions, you know. The portals didn't really invest in phishing techniques and technologies. Why should they, when there are so many naive users--techies, managers, journos, teachers, from all walks of life--who are more than willing to give their email IDs and passwords without any hesitation to anything that looks like a networking portal?! All my friends happily entered their email IDs and passwords and allowed those portals to get all that information that they wanted.

And some of those lucky ones had the good fortune of seeing their names on some mailing lists to which they never had sent a mail, despite wanting to. And that gave them a chance to send one more mail, to those 'august' mailing lists, apologizing for the inadvertent invites. Well, learning the hard way, someone might think. But then, who learns?

Maybe the one who fell in hot water, but for the others, that is just fun until they themselves fall prey to another such thing...

Till that happens, happy social networking! Enjoy!

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