Max's Output

Archive for April 2009

Social Browsers: Only Half Way There

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The concept of Social Browser sounds very appealing. Indeed, if you are infatuated in social applications you would be interested in a browser that integrates your social environment into browsing experience. However experimenting with existing social browsers I have found that they lack essential features that they must have to be called Social.
I have tried Flock, Cruz, RoamAbout 2.0. The latter is a plug-in to Firefox or Internet Explorer while others are stand-alone browsers. Features provided by these browsers can be roughly classified into two main categories:
  1. Show real-time updates from various social apps (e.g. social networks, email applications, RSS feeds, etc). For example, RoamAbout has a toolbar at the bottom of the screen with which you can get custom tailored updates from friends of your Facebook network, tweets from people you follow on Twitter, RSS feeds from your favorite blogs and news sites, and notifications when you get an email in your Gmail inbox. And you can get these non-intrusive updates while browsing on any web page. It eliminates the need to constantly switch to different tabs to check email, updates, and tweets.
  2. Submit information from the current Web page to social apps. For example, with Flock you can drag and drop any picture from the current web page to Facebook app to share it. In RoamAbout it can be done by launching an application in the context of the web page you are on, or in the context of a word highlighted on the web page. For example, you can highlight a phase on the Web page and then launch Twitter app to post it on Twitter.
At first sight it looks like a good (or even complete) set of features: you can get information from your community via updates and you can easily share information from the Web with your friends by submitting it to your favorite social apps. But it is not really enough. Remember we are talking about browsing but updates are not related to your browsing activity – they have nothing to do with the page you are currently on. With respect to the current page, you can interact with you friends only one way – share what you have found on that page. Would you also like to know what your friends posted about that page? Here we come to my main idea of this post.
To reveal the full potential of social browsing we need two way interaction with our community. I believe that in addition to sharing what you found, you would also appreciate to know what your friends (or let’s take it broader – your followees) think about that particular article or web page. In other words, we need to collect all sharings of our friends (followees) that are related to the current page from all social apps they use. This functionality opens up a new way to explore information on the Web: pages that you browse should be augmented and connected according to how your community see them. For example, when you read a blog post you would get comments by your friends to that post wherever they come from Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed. It is an example of augmentation. An example of connection is to show links to related articles derived from your social network (via collaborative filtering or content analysis) – links to other articles that your friends read and that are related to the post. Web pages augmented and connected in such way form a new Web personalized by people from your community. Browsing this new Web should be much more fun and interesting discoveries.

Written by maxgrinev

April 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized