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.”
This core feature will allow you to have accounts on more social networks, but centralize the information about your contacts in a single place. This also assumes that other social networks have an API and don’t act like walled gardens, which is not the case right now. Socialstream used data from blogging and photo-sharing sites like Blogger, Flickr and Picasa Web Albums.
“Socialstream emphasizes improving social connections by making it more efficient to communicate with, share with, and view the social content of all the people in a user’s online social network. Socialstream provides a compelling user experience because it aggregates content across many different networks so a user has a single location to discover new content and communicate. The goal of Socialstream is to present social information in a way that ties it to the person who posted the information, and not the site from which it came.”
Like with any feed reader, you’ll be informed when there’s new data for a contact. The site also includes a Google Talk-like sidebar with all your contacts. “The contact list is a structured method of viewing updates, so if a user is interested in a particular person they can navigate directly.”
When you create new content, you can post it to Socialstream or to any other participating social network. “Socialstream lowers barriers to sharing with different levels of sharing. Posts can be marked as favorites, and users can read their friends’ favorites as a way to keep up with them. ‘Post about’ supports the idea of post conversations and trackbacks. Posts can also be sent directly to a contact or commented on.”
It will be interesting to see if this project ever becomes orkut 2.0, a unified social network that lets you keep in touch no matter if they use Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa Web, YouTube, MySpace, Friendster, Facebook or other services.
Google, orkut, Socialstream, Social Networking, New Statrup, Project, Google News