Facebook and Twitter say social is the new normal

BOSTON (Reuters) - The social networking phenomenon has nowhere to go but up as computer use becomes more mobile, according to leading figures in the development of the popular sites Facebook and Twitter.

A Facebook page is displayed on a computer screen in Brussels April 21, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

“Two to five years from now, the whole question of what other social networks you use will be moot, because it will all be social,” Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, said in Boston on Thursday.

“Social is becoming the frame, the filter to a lot of information,” Hughes, 27, said during a panel discussion at the Charles Schwab “Impact 2010” investment conference.

Facebook has over 500 million active users, including more than 150 million who access the site through their mobile devices. The number of registered Twitter users is estimated at more than 165 million.

Both companies are privately held, and investors are on constant alert for any sign either will go public.

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, said the expansion of social networking would closely track a rise in personal mobility as devices such as smart phones replace traditional computers.

“I would like to see a lot less people hunched over computers in their offices in five years,” said Stone, 36.

Hughes said applications such as Facebook Connect would increasingly be knitted into the social networking fabric.

For example, Facebook Connect users going to The New York Times’ website can now see which articles their friends are reading and recommending.

“With a few clicks you’re having a social experience,” Hughes said, adding that the functionality can be a way to cut through information overload that many struggle with.

“There is no better filter than people that you know and trust,” he said.

Stone has 1.6 million followers for his tweets. He said he likes to follow to follow the Twitter feed of Sockington the Cat, a Waltham, Massachusetts, feline with a knack for clever repartee.

Twitter, said Stone, “is not going to be a triumph of technology -- it’s going to be a triumph of humanity ... the growth potential is there from a positive change perspective, not just a business perspective.”

Editing by Jerry Norton