One social network to rule them all?

From Ionut Alex Chitu at Google Operating System comes news of a project from Carnegie Mellon University — sponsored by a large search engine whose name begins with a G and ends in “oogle” — to create a kind of social network called SocialStream. Although several reports wonder whether this could be a replacement for Google’s failed (except in Brazil) social network known as Orkut.com, it seems obvious from some of the documentation here and here that SocialSystem is designed to be a meta-social network.

snipshot_e47uot40nd1.jpgIn other words, it looks as though Google wants to help create the social-networking version of Einstein’s unified-field theory: a single place where users of different social networks can bring content together and share it, whether it comes from Flickr or Facebook (which is never explicitly mentioned) or a blog. As someone who feels a little overwhelmed by all the social networks I belong to and all the content I have scattered around in various places, this seems like a great idea to me (and others as well). But will it work?

The big question in my mind is whether sites like Facebook and MySpace and so on will allow their content to be pulled in and aggregated by Google (assuming that is what happens). Those sites have APIs, and many are opening up even further, so perhaps it won’t be an issue. But if you were a social network would you want to just be an adjunct to a Google site? Probably not.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.