Summer is always a good time to think about making the world better, because it’s too hot to get things done.
This summer’s theme is the federated social web. There has been a couple of new players, a couple of attacks by existing players, and a lot of noise about what needs to be done.
We have protocols. We even have some platforms that do actually implement them, so why don’t we see a federated web appear? What’s missing? I would argue that the biggest missing link is a button. A button that the user can press to say I want to follow that person on the social web application I use. There are tweet buttons, but they’re kind of useless if I’m not on Twitter. There are Facebook buttons, but they’re also useless if I’m not on Facebook. Now I still want to follow my friends on these platforms.
It’s the same with App.net. Some of my friends use that. I want to follow them… but I don’t want to join yet another service on which I’ll build yet another social graph or circles, and that I will abandon after a couple days, because no one is talking to me there…
My friends will stick to their favorite platform, but I won’t be forced to move to theirs to not miss any of their updates: I’ll use whatever is best for me, and I’ll be able to listen to my friends there.
Lets do it.
That button needs to be extremely simple so that all sites out there could have one. It needs to be a single html tag ideally. A new kind of
<submit> HTML tag1.
We need a button that says SUBSCRIBE. That button, when pressed, in my browser, should be smart enough to pick whatever data is on that page and send it over to my social web app. My app can then subscribe using whatever open protocol services have agreed for subscriptions. I have strong favor for PubSubHubbub with feeds…
Of course, I know this means having a new HTML tag, that needs then to be implemented by browsers, and then, hopefully by all these sites. I agree with you that we’re not there yet… but we have new standards, like WebIntents which are emerging and which could very well provide a solution to that problem. See by yourself, here is a follow button: for me.
The suggested app list that you’ll seee when clicking on this button is interesting. There is Msgboy, and there is Google Reader (which is inded a subscription app), but there is also Wordpress, as it can allow you to subscribe to 3rd party sites easily. I wish there was Tumblr too (they have a great follow button after all), or Twitter, Facebook… but more importantly, I wish there was Status.net, Diaspora, App.net, Tent.io…
1 For those unfamiliar, and with a lot of shortcuts, a submit button is what allows you to POST data back to a site.