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Why smartphones are the rightful kings of social media

Alex Wawro | March 21, 2013
Social networks are leaving the PC behind as they chase the growing mobile market, and that's for the best.

The PC is a fully customizable content creation tool for making videos, games, and music. It's an entertainment machine for playing the latest games and movies with peerless fidelity. And as a communication tool, it has served us well for many, many years: You can use it for email, instant messaging, and video conferencing.

But the PC isn't perfect, and it is certainly not the best tool for social media consumption and distribution. It's a technological team player that relies on a deep bench of peripherals to deliver optimal performance, and sometimes you just can't afford to lug around all that extra gear. Life can take you places a PC simply can't go--places with no room for a decent mouse and keyboard, a gorgeous high-resolution display, or a power cable connected to a convenient power outlet.

Perversely, it's often when we're farthest from our PCs--whether exploring a craft beer festival or taking the family to Disneyland--that we most want to document and share our lives with others. Social media networks are the perfect tools for sharing those experiences, and smartphones are the perfect tools for social networking.

Mobile first, let's not kid ourselves

Facebook and Twitter debuted in the mid-2000s when the Motorola RAZR was cutting-edge tech. The two services' earliest interfaces evince a time when the lion's share of social networking happened on our desktops, but ever since the iPhone took the world by storm, social media companies have lavished their attention (and development budgets) on mobile users.

Contemporary social networks like Path, Instagram, and Vine are developed for smartphones first and foremost, and their websites almost feel like an afterthought. That may frustrate PC diehards, but you can't blame the developers: If you're in charge of building a global social network designed to let users share photos, videos, location data, and short text updates, designing your service to work best on a phone just makes good business sense.

And if you want to use your social networks to their full potential, you need to access them from your phone so you can share your favorite moments as they happen, and get up-to-the-minute information on who's doing what, where, and why.

Social media is only going to get more mobile. Twitter is pulling the plug on third-party mobile apps in an effort to maximize ad revenue from people checking Twitter on their phones. Facebook, meanwhile, is beefing up its mobile apps and publicly prioritizing mobile users by offering every employee a free intensive training course in Android and iOS development.

And then there's Google Glass, which is poised to integrate social media into the landscape of daily life. Forget about the hassle of having to sit down and boot up your PC when you want to find out what's going on. If you want to stay on the cutting edge of social media, you better get used to tapping out your updates on that tiny 4- or 5-inch screen.


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