This post'sÂ been brewing for a few weeks now. Google's acquisition of Writely can be called as a trigger pulse for this post.
Orkut is still a very popular social networking site, atleast among the school and college community (which forms a large group of web users). Since its launch two years back, it has grown in magnitude and it is sort of a social status symbol to have an Orkut Profile, owing to its "Invite only" nature. Although it has grown over the years in terms of the number of users, feature-wise it is still primitive, considering how quickly Google is trying to give it's products and services a face-lift by using AJAX.
Social Networking sites have a lot of potential, and if only a service with some of the following features were to be introduced, it'll be a huge success. (Like what Meebo did, and how everyone else was grateful to Meebo for it :) )
Firstly, a strong 'Search within website' service. Not only Profile search or Community search, but search for keywords within the Community and Profile - something similar to Blogger Profile Search. The present Social Networking websites do not allow that. For instance, it is not possible to look for all the people who've listed 'Web 2.0' as an interest in their profile. That should be enabled, for such sites are a hunting ground for people who are looking for fresh talent.
Secondly, a conversation tracker. Newsvine, which was launched recently has a similar feature. A user can find out, which article they commented on recently by a simple mouse-over action on Newsvine home page. Handy. For social networking sites to be useful, there should be provision to find out if anyone has replied to a thread posted (Newsvine does this with a field 'Comments since you last checked'); also there must be a tracker for all the messages that a user posts a comment.
Although this is quite unnecessary, given the above mentioned two requisites are met, it would be great to have a conversation archiving feature similar to what is offered by Google Talk'sÂ or Zoho Chat. The archiving feature could store the recent five conversations for easy access and reference.
Probably the poor organization of many social networking sites can be attributed to these reasons.Â Many communities contain great resources and not organizing the conversations properly will probably maintain the status of most social networking sites are to be merely a prodigal waste, save for the occasional "stumbling upon a long lost acquaintance" event.