Mark Devlin of the crisscross news thinks that social networks are demographic search engines. And that these new search engines will be even more powerful than traditional search engines. Search engines are only valuable when they provide links to the most relevant content.
To me the value of social networks is their ability to identify the most relevant and influential people in a community. Typically you can determine the most influential people by their presence in the community, and how many connections those people have with others in the community.
Cocomment, a service that allows bloggers to track their blog conversations, also lets you find the bloggers who write the most, and the most on a particular tag term. As I write comments on various blogs and track those conversations I start to come across the same people on different blogs. The value of CoComment in part is in helping me to quickly identify those people who share many of my interests. CoComment really is a social network that you can use to find people who share your same demographics and psychographics. In fact I’d suggest instead of calling social networks, demographic search engines, call them psychographic search engines.