Anatomy of "Connect"

I’m here at Webstock in New Zealand working on my talk for tomorrow (Open, Social Web) and one of the things I’ve been thinking about is all of the different “Connect” applications and products that have recently sprung into existence. I mean, we have Facebook Connect, Google Friend Connect, MySpace (thankfully not “Connect”) ID, TypePad Connect, RPX and I’m sure the list goes on. I’m trying to break down all of these products – ignoring the underlying open or proprietary technologies that make them tick – toward a straw man definition of a “Connect” application:

  1. Profile: Everything having to do with identity, account management and profile information ranging from sign in to sign out on the site I’m connecting with.
  2. Relationships: Think social graph. Answers the question of who do I know on the site I’ve connected with and how I can invite others.
  3. Content: Stuff. All of my posts, photos, bookmarks, video, links, etc that I’ve created on the site I’ve connected with.
  4. Activity: Poked, bought, shared, posted, watched, loved, etc. All of the actions that things like the Activity Streams project are starting to take on.

In my mind, the Goals of all of these “Connect” applications are focused on helping people discover new content, people they already know as well as new people with similar interests. They also all help to reduce some of the major pain points when it comes to decentralization of social networks; signing up for a new account, eliminating the manual process of filling out your profile, uploading a photo and going through that madness of “re-friending” your friends time and time again. While all of these features aren’t new, how this style of application combines them all certainly seems to be. If 2008 was the year of social application platforms (Facebook Platform and OpenSocial), perhaps 2009 will be all about “Connect” – whatever that means.

(I’ve put together an example of this using Facebook Connect and Citysearch as it seems to be the most complete example that I can find.)

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