The Solution to Social Network Site Fatigue
Social network site fatigue is when you’re sick and tired of trying to find your friends when everyone jumps ship to the Next Big Thing (Friendster to MySpace to Facebook, Twitter to Pownce, etc). The biggest problem with the web 2.0 revolution of “social network apps” is that there is no universal identifier. In real life, governments use social insurance numbers to tell the different between two people with the same name. If you look at the web as a big database, we’re missing a universal key that lets us know that engtech on Digg is also ninetimessix on StumbleUpon who is also Eric on Facebook and Internet Duct Tape on WordPress.com.This is an epidemic problem with all web services. Even in cases where there *IS* a universal common identifier there is no guarantee that every site will support it. Companies either lack the technical know-how, or they fear sending their customers to their competitors if they make it too easier to move data around.
The Universal Identifier for Movies
Everyone can agree that IMDB is the #1 database for information about movies. They also provide an ID number for each movie and TV show. For example, Six Feet Under has an ID of 0248654 and you can access a lot of information on IMDB directly if you know that number corresponds to Six Feet Under the tv show. Rotten Tomatoes understands that IMDB is the #1 database for information about movies, and you can link to any movie on their site using only the IMDB number.
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Any web site about movies that doesn’t understand that the IMDB number is the universal identifier is shooting themselves in the foot because they are making it harder for users to mash their new site up with existing sites about movies. IE: If I had a blog about movies where I always linked to IMDB, I could trivially change those links to Rotten Tomatoes for all of my old posts because RT understands the IMDB number.
What is really surprising is that even though Amazon has owned IMDB since 1998, you cannot browse Amazon results using the IMDB number. Sure, there are nice hacks like the Movie Dude script for Firefox that will crosslink the movie sites for you… but it would be so much easier with universal IDs. The same would go for social network sites.
Facebook As a Universal ID?
Facebook hype has been through the roof, with many pundits wondering if the closed garden of Facebook is going to become the official storehouse for online identity (at least for the next few years). Their ingenious apps platform lets other websites piggyback off of the Facebook social web, giving us a hint of social site nirvana: being able to maintain one set of friends on Facebook and use that same set on every other social site. But that is contingent to how well Facebook plays with other sites.
NetVibes has already shot the first volley against Facebook’s bow with their new application that exports Facebook data into NetVibes. It would be nice to see Facebook becoming a social network hub. ClaimID, the bright future of open identity, even has a Facebook application. My hope is that the ClaimID app will let me find the claimed identities of my online friends and act as a hub for my social network activities. One friendlists to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.
But There Already Is a Universal Friendslist!
There are definitely some smart eggs at Plaxo, as they’ve been repositioning themselves with Pulse as an open social network where users can share contact information and their web presence easily.
But who will win the battle of the social networks? Will it continue the same cycle of a new network being popular every two years? One thing is certain, as long as there isn’t an easy way to migrate data and contacts between these network, it will be the users who lose.
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