Apr 092008

A couple of weeks ago I saw the news that MySpace had opened up it’s developer platform, so I went to have a look at it. I like to have a beer after work from time to time, so I added the beer application that I found in the MySpace application directory. I went into the application and identified some of my favorite beers.

Then I got to thinking: some of my current and former coworkers are beer aficionados, and I’m friends with those people on Facebook, not MySpace. So I went onto Facebook and searched for beer applications, and wouldn’t you know it? The most popular beer application was made by the exact same company. So I added the application in Facebook.

Well, it didn’t take very long at all for me to be annoyed with this situation. I already spent five or ten minutes on MySpace adding beers; I sure as hell was not about to do it again on Facebook. The application should enable me to “claim” my data that I entered from MySpace.

This is where I see the Ringside Social Application Server coming into play.  If the beer application was hosted on a Ringside server, it would be able to leverage the cross network identity mapping capability.  Users could then login to the beer application through MySpace, Facebook, or even directly with the beer application where it is hosted.  Regardless, the application would enable the user to say, “I’ve used this application before”, and then login to the account where they used it.  The beer application then maps the user’s identities.  In the end, this means my beers are my beers regardless of what social network I’m on.

The implications of this capability are pretty important.  First, it makes the experience better for application users.  Second, the application extends its reach to more users and improves the quality of its data (since users wouldn’t recreate their data for different social networks).  If I’m the beer application developer, the quality of my data is very important since there are many, many brewing companies who might be interested in gaining access to this data for marketing purposes.  Another benefit from the beer application’s perspective is that it can draw users into its own niche social network of beer drinkers, where they would create profiles.  This, yet again, improves the quality of my data, relating beer information and ratings to demographics.

As more and more applications take advantage of these capabilities (and the coming payment support – but more on that later), some might wonder what the effects will be on the social networks.  I think in the end, the offering from Ringside expands the market.  If I’m Facebook, I can’t just assume that all users will come to me first.  Maybe hard core beer aficionados will go to beerapplication.com first, and find out about Facebook from there due to the application’s integration with Facebook.  Look at this across many niches, and I think you have to assume that people will get to them through search engines, and then end up in MySpace or Facebook as a result of their new knowledge of those services from the niche networks.

Anyway, I can’t wait to bridge the gap between my social networks via this new kind of data portability.

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