Social Web's Big Question: Federate or Aggregate?

60 thoughts on “Social Web's Big Question: Federate or Aggregate?”

  1. Om, I agree with almost all of the ideas you discussed. It took the longest time for my friends to get me to use services like Facebook, and aggregating services such as Ping.fm. Lately, FriendFeed has been the buzz of the networks I partake in.

    Hyperaggregation is a great solution to all the different social networking services out there, but security and privacy, as you said, are also my primary concerns. This also brings me to another thought: Hyperaggregation, theoretically, would defeat the purpose of ever having to visit the official websites that you signed up for. This would screw with market shares, advertising, level of interaction, and so forth.

    What I DON’T want to happen (but probably will anyway) is for a dozen hyperaggregating startups such as Power.com to come along to repeat this whole process again. Then there would have to be a NEW hyperaggreator that aggregates all the existing hyperaggregator (or would they be just “aggregators” at that point?).

  2. Or none of the above? Or at least that none of the above solutions are relevant if you hold that SOCIAL media isn’t entirely relevant to business in that way that other influencing factors are. I sort of see it like football on Sunday–or Saturday if you’re more the college football type.

    I realize I’m in the very small minority here, but I will gladly call a time waster a time waster when need be. I love that photo of Luic Le Meur’s notebook. My best ideas are scribbled with sharpie markers, not tweeted on twitter or batted around in emails.

    As I’ve said before, social networking is not a business plan. Perhaps it’s the business of entertainment and socializing, but I daresay it doesn’t even fit my definition of networking.

  3. I’d argue that Connect is as much an aggregation play as it is a federation one. SSO for facebook is also about getting that third party site vitality into Facebook- which fits into aggregation. I’d also consider broadening the definition of ‘federation’ beyond single sign on- to features that take your social data and federate it out to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

  4. Sheryl is right, one of my portfolio companies, http://www.wgt.com/gameclient.aspx, has a higher engagement rate than both Facebook and Myspace in that our users are spending 18 minutes per session and visiting our site 5 times a week. With a microtransaction format we can put $100 million into Facebook’s pockets via rev shares, see inverse commpton scattering. Eyeballs only get street cred when they have little green dollar signs in the iris or Sine Cerere et Libero Friget Venus for you Latin freaks.

  5. Not to ruin the party guys, but most social networks are already struggling to come up with a business model that works, and here comes these other guys trying to built services on top of that?

    Is like building floating gas stations for the flying cars that are still in early prototype state…

  6. @ Joker, thanks for the chuckle.

    @Heather Kennedy – very valid point and to a large extent I am with you, though I believe smaller focused networks are actually useful at times.

    @rizzy, I am not sure I am convinced by Power.com and the RWW post doesn’t help change my mind either.

    @Nick, can you elaborate? I think you are making an interesting point but it is not fully shared by you. would love to know more.

  7. I think perhaps it’s precisely the nature of the “smaller focused networks” and who would be using them that is an intriguing idea. Perhaps that is where you would find the profitable business model. I could think of three off the top of my head.

  8. Great piece. Especially the point made about trust and exploiting your data. To many of the current Social Media/Network sites are dependent on that model to succeed and it has become an uncomfortable norm we accept as payment for participation.

    We have been struggling with finding the best solution to the issue of trust within our own efforts at chi.mp since we do not depend on exploiting our owners content. We have always believed your data is yours and yours alone to keep, export, manipulate or delete. It has been one of the fundamental pillars of our service offering and what we embrace as a philosophy in our design and development. What we have done to date and will continue to improve on is very much inline with Loic Le Meur’s concept of “centralized me” where we gather all of your services in one place, with blog, profile and contact info on a DOMAIN that you own and control. There are a whole suite of services offered within chi.mp that will allow owners (yes I said owners not users) will be privy to with in the back end of chi.mp that will allow for syndication (push feature), enhanced contact management, true data portability and a centralized hub for communications. Our hope is that this may resolve some of the issues we are all facing and allow for the concept of a federation and aggregation to peacefully coexist and benefit all of us.

    I like the concept that power.com represents, have not had a chance to truly test drive the site yet and I am more than impressed with their claimed user base. From all of us at http://chi.mp we wish them well and encourage others to try an resolve the issues at hand that affect all of us.

  9. I think you have to have federation for aggregation to truly become ubiquitous. The only way that you the user can allow another party like power.com to access your social networks on your behalf today is to give them your username and password. The obvious abuses and violations of TOS agreements that come into play pose enough of a barrier to prevent aggregation services from reaching mainstream acceptance. Without a way to delegate abilities to a service like an aggregation service that doesn’t involve the service impersonating the user, the risk/reward ratio will always get in the way.

  10. why not interoperability between these social networking and instant messaging services? email and SMS did, albeit in different ways. hyperaggregation is just a poor, privacy-deficient hack to achieve interoperability.

  11. I thought Power.com looked familiar!
    It was called Powerscrap, when Orkut was blocked by our proxy! That I think, is how it actually became popular!
    It was sleazy then, and it is just a good looking sleaze now!
    At least you can see the sleaze. With Facebook, I feel like I bought a Reliance phone, never know what is going to happen! Somehow, Google connect feels a little safer.

    The only federated thing I have ever tried, is retweeting, only because it is something I would do anyway, especially on bbc.co.uk

    So there you go, I would use an aggregator like Power.com or Netvibes.com, only when it provides a level of access which the normal website doesn’t !
    A federation is used, only when it is intuitive enough to make my usual impulse easier!

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