It seems not a day goes by that I don't get an invitation to connect with someone on one social networking service or another. It's all very flattering, but it's getting really hard to manage, especially as many of these services don't syndicate well, or at all.
In an ideal world, I could connect and interact with people and groups from a single interface. Of course, different providers of these services would feel very differently about this. Smaller ones would love to have this outlet as an alternative to almost-certain obscurity. Bigger ones say, "I already got one, it's my world, and my users are just living in it, thank you very much."
Via Caroline Meeks and TechCrunch, I just finished reading Brad Fitzpatrick's August 17 essay, "Thoughts on the Social Graph". Brad does a very good job of laying out the problem to be solved and how to go about solving it. Better yet, he and friends are actually working on it. With Google behind him, this is pretty serious.
Still, I wonder if it's a bridge too far. Prediction: with agents like Jonathan Miller and Ross Levinsohn at Velocity now out there trying to aggregate interesting web properties into networks with the minimal reach necessary to make them interesting to advertisers (i.e., moving them up from the AdSense basement I live in), we'll soon see "federated" APIs based on these individual properties' collective social graph emerge. Why? Because doing so will make it more interesting for advertisers to build their own versions of "Facebook applications" on top of these social graphs.
Let's take an example. Let's say mythical new age ad network "Travelamigos" goes out there and rolls out a bunch of small travel social networks. People who use these networks are more likely to find and connect with buddies if they are connected across all relevant networks, not just bilaterally, so they'll find such a capability useful and be more likely to join the underlying services. Advertisers will have a larger, better-connected user base not just to sell ads to, but also to develop services for.
For large media firms, who currently control and are expanding their own "social media" properties, aggregating and exposing such a "social graph API" would also seem to be a natural progression.