As you are all aware, the number of consumer and business focused social networking platforms is mushrooming right now – facebook, myspace, twitter, jaiku, pownce, bebo, linkedin, xing and many more. It is rapidly becoming a real trial to keep up with all the networks to which one belongs, and to work out how to pull together the content and connections that these networks offer.
Therefore, much work is currently going into the federation of social networks including those listed above. For example, Google is working with a well known university on a site known as SocialStream:
Google already has a social network (orkut), but it’s only popular in Brazil and India, doesn’t have a Googlish interface and had a lot of security problems in the past. That’s why last year Google sponsored a project at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute whose initial goal was to “rethink and reinvent online social networking”.
“Directed to help improve the online community orkut, the project’s scope was not to simply redesign the interface. Our team considered how online social networking could bring greater value to users, especially for ages above twenty. After initial brainstorming and research, we chose to focus on the effects of a new model for online social networking: a unified social network that, as a service, provides social data to many other applications.”
The network, titled Socialstream, is able 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.”
In addition, Techcrunch reports that Yahoo has a similar project in the works, known as Yahoo Mosh:
Here’s a juicy tip – we’ve been hearing about a new Yahoo social network initiative called Mosh, which is at mosh.yahoo.com but can only be accessed from inside the Yahoo offices. If you happen to be using the guest wifi at Yahoo, you should be able to access the site, although this may be shut down soon.
It’s likely this would replace Yahoo’s 360 social network service, which has never really gotten traction. The existence of Yahoo Mosh also most likely puts a bullet in any further speculation that they are in acquisition talks with Bebo, a somewhat unsubstantiated rumor from May. Last year Yahoo made a serious effort at acquiring Facebook but the deal was never closed.
In my 15 years or so in the business, I have never known pace of change quite as fast as we are seeing right now – it really is bewildering trying to keep up with the rise and fall of these networks and the attempts that the big organisations (such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and IBM) are making to stay with the more nimble Web2.0 niche players (such as Facebook and Jaiku). These attempts at network federation may just be one way for them to let the smaller companies flourish bet still offer relevant and useful value to the user (by federating the content). It will be interesting to watch…