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Summary:

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark says that he believes social networking and the rise of distributed trust and reputation networks are helping to shift the balance of power in society away from those with nominal power and money and towards people who emerge from the grassroots.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark says that he believes social networking and the rise of distributed trust and reputation networks are helping to shift the balance of power in society, away from those with nominal power and money and towards people who emerge from the grassroots. Although personal social networks are relatively small in real life, unless someone is a celebrity or a politician, Newmark says that social networking allows online networks to be much larger and much more powerful by comparison.

While distributed trust systems are just emerging through services such as Facebook and LinkedIn and new ventures such as Unvarnished , the Craigslist founder says the potential implications of such networks are significant.

By the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power. That is, peer networks will confer legitimacy on people emerging from the grassroots. This shift is already happening, gradually creating a new power and influence equilibrium with new checks and balances. It will seem dramatic when its tipping point occurs, even though we’re living through it now.

Newmark also says in his post — which he is discussing in a live-streamed talk this morning at the Reynolds Journalism Institute — that he sees the need for reputation networks that can manage the distributed identities and trust information of people online, just as banks manage money.

The repositories of trust information are the banks in which we store this big asset. Like any banks, having a lot of this kind of currency confers a lot of power in them. Having some competition provides some checks and balances. We need to be able to move around the currency of trust, whatever that turns out to be, like we move money from one bank to another. That suggests the need for interchange standards, and ethical standards that require the release of that information when requested.

Newmark’s blog post expands on ideas he raised when I had coffee with him recently at his favorite cafe in San Francisco, where I shot a short video embedded below. At the time, he said that managing trust and reputation online was “the next big problem for the web,” and called some form of distributed trust system “the killingest of killer apps.”

Newmark suggested that big players such as Google, Facebook and Amazon were the kinds of entities that would have the scale to handle such a distributed trust or reputation-management network, and said that despite some occasional missteps by both Google and Facebook when it came to privacy (Google Buzz and Facebook Beacon, respectively), he believed that both were acting in good faith and had a policy of “not being evil.”

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Can Enterprise Privacy Survive Social Networking?

  1. [...] Newmark recently told Mathew Ingram “that managing trust and reputation online was “the next big problem for the [...]

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  2. Thanks, Craig, I agree that the world becoming a nation of publishers is changing the fundamental balance of human society, at first in ways that bring us back to the pre-industrial era of democratic institutions but eventually back to a much earlier paradigm in human culture. What will drive this change above all else is that this Content Nation will able to survive and to thrive more effectively than societies that depend on more centralized authorities. Society developed through social media-style communications is more flexible, more readily adapted to changing circumstances and more able to collaborate on productive solutions across many traditional barriers.

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  3. I think Craig is right on the mark, the future of social networking will be amongst a trusted network and people who are important to you

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  4. That’s deeply profound!

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  5. Craig Newmark had fascinating comments about trust, branding, who he believes are today’s leading thinkers in journalism, and more, when he appeared yesterday for a one hour discussion, Q&A at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. See video http://www.rjionline.org/events/stories/craig-newmark/index.php

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  6. I recently wrote an outline about a reputation management engine that I thought was missing from the ecosphere.

    http://ixld.com/blogs/web/2010/2/18/reputation-management-online/39002

    I think reputation is the next big playing field and a key to social commerce and other evolutions of the social network.

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  7. A fun twist to the story: Craiglist CEO visiting Columbia yesterday ultimately NOT for sale. http://bit.ly/91AIIv

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  8. This was very insightful. I love to read how SM is causing the influence to spread out from a few to many. Great article.

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