Your Friends online may not be so Human

What is the future of social networks? Many try to predict how the online networking space will develop in the coming years. Now that people have more or less built their Facebook community and finished adding the last of their school classmates of past, all relatives, and even the people they don’t actually know, a new type of friends can be added: software bots. Gartner predicts that by 2015 at least 10% of your friends will be non-human.

It might not be much of a competition to your lost school buddy that constantly has to tell his friends on Facebook what he thinks of everything. Software bots are computer programs that do automatic tasks. These might be used by corporation to promote brands and send out relative material and promotions. Indeed we are seeing some of this already as marketing systems can post to social networking sites. However, as bots get more cleaver they will know your habits, likes and dislikes. They will learn how to push stuff to you.

Search bots might actually be useful in this case. Software agent that runs day and night, scans all news sources for information that the agent has learned that you want. And in the morning you will get your search results or “newspaper” exactly as you like it. Sport news will feature only the teams you like and will not contain stupid sports that you don’t even understand. Unless of course the news is about how stupid the sport is. Business news will cover the industries you like and, importantly industries you don’t normally pay attention to if only the news is somewhat relevant to your preferences. This is not so much about filtering, it’s about matching your preferences using “contextual discovery”.

We are also seeing more advanced software that scans social networks for relevant communication. As these systems get more cleaver they can pick up information and respond to the them. And as predicted engage in a communication with the user.

The interesting questions is: will these non-human friends pass the Turing test?

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