I’ve been using a couple of new things lately that are taking advantage of social networking not for the purpose of creating yet another social network (YASN) but rather aggregating the activity feed of the collection of networks we use or simply bringing them to a consolidated interface.
Plaxo Pulse comes to mind immediately in this regard, they treat social sites as nothing more than feeds that are aggregated for the purpose of updating you on what is going on.
I also find their relationship classifications to be refreshingly simple and effective. Contacts are business network, friends, and/or family; the key observation is that any contact can be all or simply one of these selections and each has increasingly levels of privilege in your network. This is much better than the way Facebook and Linkedin do this.
The newest version of Flock delivers on the vision of a “social browser” with integration to social networks, photo sharing, blogging, and bookmarking sites. I just started using this Mozilla-based browser after dumping Firefox and trying a bunch of the others (side note: opera is really neat but not supported by websites I use, Safari v3 is “good enough” but not better than the competition, Camino is much better than Firefox but lags behind what Flock is delivering).
I am really enjoying Flock and having a number of “wow” moments as I get more into it. In fact, I am writing this post with the integrated blog editor and while it won’t replace Ecto for me, it is good enough for quick posts.
Lastly, FriendFeed is a deceptively simple service that takes the power of the Facebook front page feed and applies it across a very wide range of social networks and services that people use. This service is most like Plaxo Pulse but
much broader in the services it supports and their widget for embedding the feed is much better than Pulse’s, but it’s currently limited to iGoogle and Facebook so embedding it in a blog is not possible (or just not obvious).
In each of the 3 examples highlighted here the social dimension is not a true network but an abstraction of a network that already exists. It doesn’t take much imagination to pick off a range of popular applications that would similarly benefit from adding social features, yet I am not alone in suggesting that social network proliferation is not the answer but rather extracting more mileage out of the services that already exist.