One identity, multiple networks …

Brighton BarCamp (see my post here) raised a question that’s been insistent in my mind for some time. Social computing sites (including virtual worlds) multiply like rabbits. How do you manage that? As I put it at the time:

The second day of BarCamp was illuminated by several conversations about the future of Social Networks (is there one? will multiplicity kill them off? is Facebook past it or you ain’t seen nothin’ yet? what about identity sharing with XFN and similar frameworks?)

Being a bit long in the tooth, I’ve been here before. A dozen or so years ago, I wrote the initial business case that took the company I worked for onto the Web. It was possible, then, to have a pretty good go at listing all the sites that were relevant to a pharmaceutical company and my IT colleagues. But of course that didn’t last long.

Another lesson from the past is that human beings are a gregarious species: we communicate. Almost any network technology goes person-to-person. The telephone, it was thought, would be used to broadcast church services and concerts. We know what happened. On France’s Minitel, perhaps the only really successful teletext service, the greatest successes were the interpersonal applications – not the databases. The Web’s going the same way: still lots of good information out there to browse, but Web 2.0 is all about the person-to-person Web: blogs, wikis, virtual worlds, social platforms and no doubt other things still to come.

The multiplicity of websites gave rise to the search engine. But when it’s multiple platforms that all carry part of your life, that’s not going to help.

Solutions are beginning to emerge: integration technologies to pull your life streams into one place. It’s not just what you put out there: it’s keeping in touch with your friends on different platforms. Here’s some of what’s going on; maybe the techies can comment with others.

Jabber links multiple instant messaging platforms. Corporate closed IM services are beginning also to open up to the outside world. It’s a great help to doing business.

Any RSS reader, pulling together feeds from any number of places but, in this context, perhaps particularly from blogs you want to keep up with. I like Google Reader.

OpenSocial is intended to link social networking platforms: led by Google (which includes YouTube, remember) with, among others, Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo,, Six Apart and the database giant Oracle.

XFN (XHTML Friends Network) is Semantic Web technology to assert links between different web sites or services which are “you”, like this blog, my Pocket Website, and my base InformationSpan website. See the blogroll for links!

Now there’s Thwirl, downloadable software that plugs directly into Twitter. Twhirl, lets you post to three services at once: Twitter, plus the similar services Pownce and Jaiku, according to the report in MIT’s Technology Review.

And Technology Review also reports on the MOGBox, which will let you design a high-resolution 3-D character and transport it as an avatar to multiple virtual worlds. It wouldn’t link the worlds themselves, but at least you can look the same everywhere without having to recreate.

Come to that, SMTP was the unifying technology for email. In the early days there were two addressing conventions on the Internet and proprietary closed systems like AOL as well …

So you have to bet on the unifying power of the human spirit to pull together these threads.

Consolidating Your Web Banter Technology Review, 9 Apr 2008
One Avatar, Many Worlds Technology Review, 8 Apr 2008
OpenSocial (Google)
XFN the Jabber project
Thwirl “a desktop Twitter client”
MOGBox announced (Mogware blog, 19 Feb 2008)
Minitel (Wikipedia)