The initial task facing the students working on Socialstream couldn’t have been clearer: “Rethink and reinvent online social networking”. And now it looks like they might have laid the foundation for Google’s next big thing: a social network to unite all social networks.The Carnegie Mellon University research team were sponsored by Google to investigate the development of social networks and to eventually create Socialstream, a system where
Users can seamlessly share, view, and respond to many types of social content across multiple networks… 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.
The idea of a genuinely unified social network is something of a holy grail among the big names on the web. Yahoo is already testing what looks like an equivalent, Mosh – but details of this project are thin on the ground and confusingly, Nokia have a similarly named operation under way. Are they the same Mosh?
Some commentators are pointing out that it’s difficult for big companies to start their own social networks from the ground up. From what I can see of Socialstream, that’s not what Google are trying to do at all. A single site where I can view and control my Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn, last.fm profiles is something I could use. But the merest hint of crippled usability – in other words, if I still had to actually visit Facebook – that would put me off. It remains to be seen just whether Google can get away with ‘piggybacking’ on top of the exisiting networks.