Getting Wet in Google’s Socialstream

I may be putting the cart before the rented mule with this post about Google’s social networking plans/projects, but similar to others out there, I believe it’s never too early for useful information.

According to Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute’s website, a Google sponsored project to “rethink and reinvent online social networking” has been completed.

The result of the Master’s program project is Socialstream — “a system where users can seamlessly share, view, and respond to many types of social content across multiple networks.”

Just as Google itself is, in a sense, an aggregator for information on the web, my initial impression of Socialstream is that it’s an aggregator for content sharing across multiple social networks.

My personal beef with social networking sites has always been one of online geography. Being the content creator, why should I be stuck within the framework of one social network’s website? But on the other side of the coin, I don’t have the time to maintain personal spaces on multiple networks.

Socialstream’s Refined Focus addresses my concerns:

Discover the user needs related to social networking and explore how a unified social network service can enhance their experience.

I think the time-investment issue is a definite barrier keeping many people who juggle full-time jobs and full-time home lives from diving into social networking on a personal level. The Socialstream team appears to be aware of this barrier:

Our team considered how online social networking could bring greater value to users, especially for ages above twenty.

The final Socialstream prototype boasts a number of benefits and features that, if readily available, have the potential to introduce many new faces and profiles to online social networking. Socialstream’s greatest asset, however, may be its biggest holdup:

Socialstream would be based on a unified social network (USN), a single network that provides social data to other sites as a service. A service model allows many social networks to be linked together, letting them share both content and the nature of the relationships of the people who use them. A USN would, in practice, be invisible. All participating sites would simply share information through it.

For Socialstream to run at full throttle, it sounds like the popular social networking platforms would have to jump on board and agree to a shared service model. I am doubtful of that being a working relationship that popular network CEOs would agree to.

Where does Socialstream go from here? There’s little info on the Carnegie Mellon University website that answer the “What next?” question. But undoubtedly, Socialstream gives us all insight into the quickly approaching future of social networking.