Open Source Social Networking

Social Networking is easy. Any user can jump online and join one of hundreds of social networking sites. The “friends list” concept is popping up all over the place. You can find social networks for posting pictures, videos, and even finding dates. Perhaps it’s the ease of use that enables them to be so popular.

What I would like to see happen next wouldn’t be as “easy” as our current batch of social networks. Because it’s not easy, I don’t expect the idea to ever take off. Still, I would like to see it happen just as much.

I would like to abstract the friends list concept entirely. This would also require abstracting the identity concept entirely (see OpenID and Sxip). Anyway, the concept is such that you manage a mast friends list somewhere. This would contain considerably more complex information than what most social networks offer now. It would allow for grouping, would show number of hops between you and another person, and would allow for public/private view management. Above all else, it would be build such that you are not locked into any one platform. If you build a personal home page, you could write an app that enables your social network. If you installed a piece of popular web software for content management on your personal site, it would include plugins to activate your social network.

Basically, what I’m getting at, is removing the social network from the walled garden of a service provider. Now instead of having a profile on a service, you have your own website that you can develop as you see fit.

I think that this concept will eventually happen in one form or another. It’s taking a while for the identity management stuff to catch on so I’m sure it will be a long time. I’ve thought about the problem in a few different ways and I’m not sure what the best method of solving the problem would be. Maybe it’s built on something as simple as defining relationships in your anchor tags.

Just thinking out loud about this one. If anyone knows of projects of this nature, please let me know.