The most obvious gated community/trust based network is the family (“the network you don’t get to choose”). Many people want better tools to stay in touch with extended family now that families tend to be so geographically dispersed. If a gated community for models seems small and frivolous, what about one for doctors or lawyers or architects? Trust is critical in this case. Doctors need to be confident that they are able to communicate with each other without the pharma or the insurance industries eavesdropping.
Trust vs. Openness
Viewed from this perspective, companies are just one more example of a gated community. The Internet dramatically reduces transaction friction, making it easier for networks crossing organization boundaries. Companies are now far more “porous” (open to the external world) at every level and so in our work life we may be part of many networks – not just the network defined by the organization chart.
However, the trust issue for companies remains very real. You cannot simply allow everybody to see everything. Technically it is all about security, rights and permissions control; which has been around in different ways for a long time. So this looks less like a technology opportunity than an implementation, consulting, professional services type of opportunity.
A lot of the debate about Facebook vs. MySpace or any other social network is just a question of choice. It’s a question of “where do you want to hang out?” That’s why the students in Facebook will move on if Mom & Dad join. This is simply an update to the old private club, which may mean that we see more club type rules emerging online. The two principle rules are (a) a new member has to be proposed by an existing member and (b) through some form of voting arrangement a member can be “blackballed” (thrown out of the club). These types of exclusivity rules help ensure trust through member/peer pressure.