ZDNet has a posting that states the next big thing is user contributed metadata. I agree. There is a trend to defining your own digital identity which can be used to match you to new friends, targeted ads, new websites, etc.
The key will be how and who will manage that identity. Currently there are large ecosystems that have quickly sprung up because of their ability to lower the barrier for connectivity between people – Friendster, My Space, Facebook. But your identity is still a prisoner of that particular ecosystem (hence the value it can provide to advertisers).
There appears to be efforts underway to provide a more open approach to identity and authetication. OAuth looks promising as a way to protect certain data and give other people access. Combine that with OpenID and you have the basics for a digital identity that can roam and interact on the web…if you let it.
So that brings me to the concept of “social ready media”. Media is meant to be consumed, played, mashed up, and redistributed in the world. It’s value is in it’s ability to draw people together – a viral video, family photos, etc. Metadata within the media can play a powerful roll in enabling social connections. I have a tagline corrupted from Marshall McLuhan I use when describing XMP – “The message is in the medium”.
If the media carried the social connections, I could easily build my social graph as simply as sharing pictures and videos and not be beholden to a particular wall garden of connections.