Social Websites, Unite!

Posted By BrokenClaw on August 19, 2007

Social websites are popping up everywhere… Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Flickr… the list goes on and on. The idea is that you create virtual groups of friends so you can share everything online and keep each other informed. You can share news, photos, music, links, or you can just tell everyone where you are and what you are doing. The competition for these sites is to get you to sign up for an account. They’re all free (mostly), and easy to do. The problem is that they only work if your friends are on the same site. And the hot site today may not be so hot tomorrow, so you move on to another site.

My question is, where are the web developers when you need them? Why can’t you just communicate between social websites? Yes, I know you can set up RSS feeds to aggregate your posts in and out, and there are other services which will let you post simultaneously on different websites, but you still have to have an account on each one to use them.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson developed the modern email application by standardizing the use of the @ symbol. He created a protocol whereby computer files could be sent across the network to people who were on different domains — you know, like tiger@tree.com could send a message to flea@dirt.com. Tiger and Flea didn’t have to have accounts on the same domain to exchange data. (Yes, I know that was in the old Arpanet days, before there were any dot coms, but you get my point.) The same should be true of social network websites. If you have a Facebook, you should be able to add a friend from MySpace or Bebo, without creating an account on those sites. The application and protocol should exist for you to create the same friends list across websites, just like Tomlinson’s email.

Disclaimer: Tiger@tree.com and Flea@dirt.com are fictional characters at fictional domains. Any resemblance to actual persons or websites is purely coincidental.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll write the protocol myself. Let me fire up my GW-BASIC interpreter and see what I can do. Wait, I might need Turbo Pascal for this one.

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