The big news over the weekend is the apparent purchase of one-time social-networking highflier (though now pretty much invisible) Tribe.net. Who cares, right? Except it's networking giant Cisco that's buying it. The social-networking fad has well and truly caught on, not just with 16-year-olds, but with plenty of business executives deciding the need to offer it -- even if it doesn't always make sense. The logic in the Cisco purchase is hard to discern. It had already purchased Five Across, a supplier of white-label social-networking services, last month, with the apparent angle being that Cisco wanted to supply social-networking to all the companies to which it supplies its more usual type of networking products. That logic is sort of interesting, but it's hard to see Cisco ever becoming much of a force in social networking, since it's a space typically dominated by younger, smaller and more creative companies -- after all, this is a space that even Google couldn't make work (except for Orkut's huge market share for Brazilian drug dealers). Interesting though the logic may be, it's still not particularly compelling. While the hype around social networking continues to grow, it appears there's still a lot of thinking to be done about where and how it makes sense to fit it into a company's strategy. For instance, alongside the Cisco-Tribe news this weekend was the relaunch of USA Today's web site, with a host of new social-networking features. While the change is accompanied by the inevitable negative reactions from some readers anytime a newspaper changes anything, the wider response appears a bit more optimistic. That's because what USA Today is doing makes some sense, and can be appreciated as an attempt by the paper to make its web offering more interesting and more relevant. Offering social-networking isn't some sort of magic bullet, nor is it easy to get right -- and that's something these companies rushing into the space will figure out pretty quickly.
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