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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  • (Aside: why doesn’t this blog support OpenID?)

    Great write up David — glad to see this come together. These pieces are a nice complement to what we’ve identified in the DiSo Project as the core elements.

    We also talk about messaging, permissions, groups and the like.

    The one modification I’d add to the list of goals would be, in general, to attempt to humanize the web and, through better technology, design and functionality, make more humane this digital space which more and more of us increasingly rely upon.

  • I agree that what’s missing from the elements of a connect application is the idea of “permissions” that would be everything which lets a user keep control of the ‘connections’ themselves.

    In the end these look like the first principles or the dimensions which make up the “new” web world.

    And reaching the goal of making the web more human, these connect applications will also be making the web a more ‘personal’ space: I’ll be able to re-compose ‘myself’ online (with my social relationships) joining all the small pieces I’m leaving around.

  • David. Please take a look at our app introNetworks. We focused on making the connections piece the main thrust of the site. I was at the patent office in DC today showing them this exact piece.

  • Eventually, all we will be choosing is the preffered client for each device we use. For example on osx, the instant-messaging application Adium allows to combine all your chat accounts under a single client, including facebook chat under a single interface. Unfortunately it does not update user-information.

    I think that a smart idea would be to create a client that allows one person with a single updated profile to join or update all the services simultaneously and locate new friends by using address book information. Imagine how quickly one may build their social network!

  • Good points you share here, David! I agree with David and Luca that concepts such as groups and permissions are a key(ller :) application of connect apps.

    One point I see strongly missing in these apps, is the fact relations between people (and things) are totally dynamic and shall I say, embodied. I don’t really much about sharing physical things (I’m talking about things like my music on my ipod shall be playable on my friends hifi or the jukebox, only my parents would have access to my physical location at any time, my gf can check out my home camera but not my sister, the police can see my home security installation, while my electricity company can see only energy consumption, etc…)

    Leaving out all the privacy issues here, I think it’s essential to go beyond just connections between people. I see the Web as quickly popping out of browsers, and I would like to be able to access information without a laptop. More importantly, if we see a web of real things becoming reality (which is what I’m working on), then we’ll need much more flexible permission mechanisms to define who has access to what data, and all that in privacy saving manner!

    Look forward for my cat to friend me on facebook!!