Distributed Social Networks

By Greg • Jul 8th, 2007 • Category: Blogging, Business, Friends, Ideas, Interesting Finds, Marketing, Media, People, Technology, Trends

This is a rant on a topic that interests me as I continue to watch the evolution of social networking and social media. I wrote on this topic last February, but now more than ever I am starting to see a real need for the Social Network Integrator (SNI), but in a bit of a different role than my original post suggests. The SNI’s will be very busy, not only today but well into the future.

I am observing, as you probably are, a lot of evolution occurring all around us in regards to the way we are connecting, and communicating with each other. Look at all of the social networks and tools available to us. From LinkedIn, and CollectiveX to Facebook, and its development platform, the growth and evolution of these platforms is nothing short of impressive.

As this landscape continues to evolve, I think once again about the role of the “SNI” or the Social Network Integrator, and what their job will entail, both now and in the future. In reference to my last post on the subject, forget about mergers or acquisitions that may occur between social networks, what about distributed networks, or open networks? How can the SNI’s help us leverage the power of each of the respective networks that we belong to?

For example, I listed at least 9 different social based sites, that I participate in. Thats nine different usernames and passwords I need to keep up with, lots of inviting and accepting invitations of the same friends that are on all of the other networks. This, as you know, can be a very redundant process. In many cases we are being redundant with content on each network as well. Couldn’t there be an easier way to connect up with all of your peeps across all the various networks, see their status, view their objectives, photo’s, blog posts, video’s, etc?

Can we come up with some kind of solution, either centralized or not, that allows each network to continue to exist 100% independently from one another, but at the same time share certain data, and users in some cases, across each network? Lots of possibilities right? Think open API’s. I know its happening in certain places, but its not wide spread, yet. Think about seeing LinkedIn messages on your Facebook news feed, maybe you want to keep them separate, but maybe you don’t. Facebook clearly has this concept down and so does CollectiveX, allowing you to pull in content from everywhere. More networks have to follow the open model to get to critical mass.

But lets start with something really simple. Using the example I mentioned about about the constant adding, inviting, accepting, confirming, etc, friends, how about a simple API push from everyone, where all of the various social sites, from the Facebook’s to the Flickr’s can publish their user base to one centralized location. The end user experience would be a web property where you can easily see what sites & networks the people you want to link up with are part of. I still can’t find an easy way to find out which people I know are on Twitter.... (I don’t really like TwitterSearch). Is there something better that exists already?

As far as social aggregators, I see the likes of Profilactic and SocialURL beginning to pop up. This could be the start for sure for centralized identity and profile management, but even more than that is pulling the various content one may be interested in, altogether in one place. A sort of uber network aggregator. This is what I am talking about, and the networks should open up more and more content to be aggregated. Think Facebook marketplace, LinkedIn jobs, De.licio.us links, Tweets, etc… all available in a customized view.

I believe there is an infinite amount of possibilities for the distribution and sharing of various network elements. I would think that the SNI or a team of SNI’s would be the folks who are thinking of and executing the various ways their own network can be “distributed,” to therefore make it all the more powerful and valuable to its participants. Think about it, do closed social networks have the ability to truly scale in value? We know they definitely scale in users, that we know for sure, but what about overall value to its participants? I am not so sure of this.

Brad Feld and David Cohen recently discussed their thoughts on vertical social networks, and their thinking crosses directly into this topic. I, like Brad, think more horizontally around social networks, and I like the idea of the social operating system, of sorts.

David rolls out some of my exact thoughts when he states:

“as these social networks proliferate, one thing that would be incredibly helpful would be a “write once, use many” centralized user profile. I would love to see OpenID go in this direction (or someone leveraging OpenID) by allowing users to create their base profile in one place rather than having to constantly enter it into every network they want to check out. Tools like these will abound, and the key is that these tools should be in a unique position to truly understand each users preferences, affinities, and social webs.”

Its that last piece that could really add a lot of value, the ability to “truly understand each users preferences, affinities and social webs.” I am sure we will see a lot of development in this area.

What do you think about social network integration and aggregation? Will we have one common platform that overlays on top of various networks we are part of, or will we be able to see content we choose from other networks (like we can in Facebook), as a common standard moving forward?

Greg is
| All posts by Greg

5 Responses »

  1. [...] nTracker (‘/outgoing/thetrendjunkie.com/2007/07/08/sni-extension-of-job-description/’);” href=”http://thetrendjunkie.com/2007/07/08/sni-extension-of-job-description/” title=”“>Greg Cangialosi – The Trend Junkie [...]

  2. Thanks for mentioning Profilactic. We are rolling out a new release next week which adds a few new features and a new, snazzy UI. Would love for you to check it out and let us know what you think.

    Thanks again for the mention.

  3. Bravo.

  4. If we decoupled the notion of friend or relationship from the other functions of the site, then we could all keep our friend associations (using their openids, of course) in our own server.

  5. SM - nice work on Profilactic. I definitely look forward to checking out the new release.

    David – thanks, you hit the nail on the head in your post. Nice work.

    Joe – Agreed! if we could carry our friend / relationships across the networks without having to re-invite, confirm, etc.. over and over it would be huge. Lets see if OpenID moves in this direction.

    • Greg

    Leave a Reply