Facebook and MySpace are yesterday – Movable Type and WordPress are today? The next question is: how many bloggers are going to take on the task of trying to build and manage a base of social network constituents? Maintaining an audience is hard enough – getting them to consistently engage at disparate locations (based on their disparate interests) and manage that engagement is going to require a staff (or a more lucrative business model for bloggers than mere advertising). Nevertheless, it seems the technology is on it’s way.
I have little experience with Movable Type (at least in the last couple of years – was once a licensee), but I played with WordPress MU on several different occasions, and not too long ago. The development community was a bit lighter than the single user install base, but there were plenty of interesting things going on there, including OpenID, user profile management, etc. And I found the ease of use paralleled regular WordPress (with just a few more kinks).
Further refinement and branding of the technologies should attract some favor, and I suspect there will be a ton of folks tinkering around with the first clean release. However, Drupal has had social capabilities for some time, although I think part of the problem with adoption there was the complexity of the platform (i.e. working around that byzantine API). Nevertheless, whether anyone can build a competitive brand with companies like Ning around is just going to require less hacking and more marketing.
End note: social networking and blogging process seems to be converging and diverging simultaneously. On one hand you have the developments above, yet at the same time you have ABC-list bloggers happily moving their conversations to places like Friendfeed and Twitter (and tiring of that too – funny how actual work can get in the way). And they’ve been allowing “second party” platforms such as Disqus and Intense Debate to collaborate from within on discussion.
At once too many players vying to control over a very limited core audience? Not sure. But I am fairly certain that the incremental benefit of using the myriad of tools (or is that toys?) is far smaller than the amount of time everyone spends on them. Unless you own the platform…or get very very lucky.