I've spent a lot of time thinking about the MySpace music player and the YouTube video player. I believe these two "widgets" (if you can call them that) have been very significant parts of the success of those two services.
In the case of MySpace, the ability to simply click "add" when you hear a song you like and then you are broadcasting that song on your own page was pure genius. It brought the musicians to MySpace because they saw the viral aspects to music on MySpace. The more musicians came to MySpace, the more value accrued to being a member of the MySpace social network.
The founders of YouTube must have thought a lot about that trick because when they made their video player embeddable on a MySpace page, the MySpace community reacted swiftly, putting YouTube videos on their pages the way they put music on their page. They find something they like and they show it to their friends. Not a link, that's old school, they showcase the media right their on their page.
So what can we learn from the success of these two players? Well first, there is the lesson I already referred to. People don't want to link to media like audio and video (and photos), they want to run it right there on their own pages. They want to be the TV station, the radio station, the newspaper.
But we can also learn that the easier it is to add something the better. My gold standard is the MySpace music player. If you have the MySpace music player on your page and you find some music you like, you simply click "add" and its on your page.
Why don't the widgets/badges I have on my blog work like that? Why can't I click "add" on a ThisNext badge I see somewhere on the Internet and have the item I like immediately on my badge? Why can't I click "add" on some music I find on a Streampad badge I see somewhere on the Internet and have the music added to my Streampad player? You get the idea. Immediate add is nirvana and we need to get there for this widget/badge thing to really take off.
I believe that all of the functionality we currently have in social networks is going to emerge on the Internet at large. You won't need to be on MySpace to get a social music experience as long as you have an online identity somewhere on the net. You won't need to be on YouTube to get a social video experience as long as you have an online identity somewhere on the Net. Actually YouTube is a lot closer to where we are going than MySpace is. YouTube is an edge feeder. MySpace is not.
But you have to spend time in these social networks to see where the Internet is headed. MySpace is the AOL for blogging. It's where this stuff goes mainstream, but it's not where it's going to end up.