Ionut Alex Chitu over at Google Operating System has a post about Socialstream, a new kind of social network, created by a project in the Master’s program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and sponsored by Google. Don’t the already have a orkut that’s kind of a big deal in Brazil?
Anyway, the feature that jumped out for me was the USN, which allows Socialstream to:
. . . draw content from a variety of sources. Socialstream would be based on a unified social network (USN), a single network that provides social data to other sites as a service. A service model allows many social networks to be linked together, letting them share both content and the nature of the relationships of the people who use them.
So, exactly what I asked for last week. Or so it would seem.
The bit that sticks out after my initial “sweet” reaction is that USN allows social networks to share content. This assumes each network has an API and actually keeps it open for aggregation by Socialstream. This seems like a stretch for advertising driven networks, considering ads account for the lion’s share of their revenue. Facebook says it will earn close to $150 million this year, most of which will come from an advertising deal with Microsoft.
As an academic project, Socialstream addresses the key issue lacking today, two-way aggregation and interaction with the existing networks. You can even share your contacts with new invitees, so if I invite Paul, I can also add Rich as one of his contacts when he accepts. The real power (and fun) of a social network isn’t really visible until you have a handful of contacts, so this is a great feature.
Plus, it has some great UI and looks like a big step forward, mixing just enough Ajax with a simple design. I also like the idea of bulking up Facebook’s news feed feature and making it central to the experience. One of the best features of a social network is seeing what your “friends” are doing.
The problem is that MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Friendster, Pownce, Twitter, etc. are companies, funded by VCs or publicly held, which means they have no incentive to encourage aggregation away from their properties.
Can Google make them all play nice? Or will the behemoth’s mass appeal force them to play nice as people flock to the newest Google property? Maybe Google will buy them all. Dunno, but Socialstream looks cool.