Building A New Type Of Social Network: How “Glue” Is Using Semantic Technology To Change The Way People Connect On The Web

The web is evolving rapidly and it’s nice to see that social networking is evolving right along with it. If you frequent top tech sites like TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb, you’ve probably heard (or read) the term “Semantic Web” hundreds of times this year, but in this blogger’s humble opinion, all the hype and hoopla hasn’t produced much that most of us can actually use, especially not in the social networking arena. Until now. A New York-based tech startup called AdaptiveBlue has just released a FireFox browser add-on called Glue that just might turn traditional social networking on its head. In my estimation, Glue’s release represents a significant leap forward in social browsing and is likely the first of many semantic technologies that will begin changing the way people connect and have more meaningful interaction on the web. Here’s just a few reasons why Glue is a game-changer:

Semantic Technologies (Can) Put Our Networking Activities In Context

One of the key insights that Glue was built on is that the things we like and the content we consume say as much about us as anything else, and that connecting over things and content we love with others is meaningful and enjoyable. With Glue, AdaptiveBlue has built a contextual network that uses semantic technology across the web to automatically connect people around the everyday things they are interested in – books, music, movies, celebrities, artists, stocks, wine, restaurants and more. Here’s the awesome part…because the network is decentralized and distributed across popular sites using the AB Meta Markup, it doesn’t matter when or where the users visit things, Glue recognizes the object and connects people around it. For example, Glue recognizes a particular movie (like IronMan) as the same object on IMDB, Amazon, Netflix, RottenTomato, Fandango etc. and treats it the same way. If a friend on Glue interacts with that movie on any site using the AB Meta Markup, that interaction will show up on any other compliant site for that object in Glue.  There is no destination site, the network is always in the user’s context anywhere they are interacting on the web. Here’s a quick video that illustrates exactly how Glue works and how it builds networks of people around objects:

Glue Overview from AdaptiveBlue on Vimeo.

Glue Blends Simplicity and Portability

If you’re an avid online social networker you’re aware of just how many social networking, tagging and microblogging platforms are out there. Most of us don’t have time to respond to voice mail and e-mail every day, let alone check our Twitter updates and Facebook accounts and Flickr friends. Simplicity is key. The beauty of Glue is that it doesn’t force you into a one-or-the other decision when it comes to the suite of services you use, and it doesn’t force you to build a new profile on a new site. Rather, it adds value to all your existing services by allowing you to dynamically build a portable profile as you browse the web that loads (for other Glue users) on all of the sites that you claim in Glue seamlessly.  You don’t have to change your habits at all. The value here is that every Glue user that visits any of your sites (your blog, your Twitter stream, LinkedIn profile, Flickr strean  etc) sees the Glue bar, adding variety, and context to every profile without you having to do anything but claim a page. For people who are into lifestreaming, this is a major value-add. Plus, it gives people an easy way to find all of your content on the web. The profile provides quick and easy hop links to all of your sites with just a few clicks. Here are a couple of screenshots of my various profiles around the web (you can see that the Glue bar shows on all of them)

Glue Profile On Twitter, My Blog, FriendFeed, LinkedIn and Flickr

Providing Meaningful Filters For People And Things

After spending a few months on Glue (in private beta), what I’ve found the most interesting is that I can use people as filters for (finding and analyzing) things and use things to help me filter and analyze people. The biggest problem I have when I interact with people I’ve never met on text-based platforms like Twitter or FriendFeed is that for the most part I’m doing so with very little personal context. The biggest frustration I have with social media in general when it comes to meeting new people is being able to answer one big question “What is this person like?”. Glue is awesome for giving someone’s suite of profiles “a common personality” because it rides on top of all of their profiles (as discussed above). Here’s what I mean…

Let’s say I find a guy named “JoeTweetalot” on twitter. All I know about Joe is that he’s got a short bio on his page that just says “I live in San Jose, I work at a software company and I’m awesome. DM me!”. Doesn’t really tell me much. BUT he’s on glue. Right on! So his profile drops down and I surf his stuff….now I know that Joe is interested in these things:

Office Space, SuperBad, FightClub, Oceans 11, The Laws Of Simplicity, Click, Crowdsourcing, The Numerati, Radio Head, Hendrix, 24, Prison break, iPhone, Apple Laptop, and 5 Popular Sushi restaurants in Soho”….

The stuff I can see in his Glue Profile acts as a great filter for his personality – I already have an idea of what Joe’s sense of humor might be like, I can guess his approximate age, I know he’s interested in similar topics as me, and his music and food tastes are also similar to mine. It says instantly “do I have stuff in common with this person or not?” Which is the most frequent question I have that rarely gets answered on the social web. Being able to share a bit of ourselves in this way allows us to find more meaningful connections with others and allows us to connect over the things we love.

Final Thoughts

With any luck, we’re going to start seeing smarter technologies for social browsing and networking that provide better context and meaning to our interactions online. Glue is the most noteworthy of such smart technologies available to date. While still in its infancy, the service represents a significant advance in how people can use semantic technologies to pull their many services together (meaningfully) and find new ways to find each other and connect over shared interests. The novelty, simplicity and portability of Glue is a major plus in such a cluttered social networking world and shows us the way forward. But don’t take my word for it…try it yourself. Get Glue.


  1. October 28, 2008 at 12:06 pm ·

    Alex Iskold is definitely going somewhere with Glue… This is going to be big.
    (disclaimer: I write for RWW, just like Alex, but still, I really love his stuff)

    • October 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm ·

      @Fabrice – I completely agree. I think this is going to be huge.

  2. October 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm ·

    Curious how Glue is different from Socialbrowse, or even Medium (I can never remember where the dots in the name go).

    • October 28, 2008 at 12:47 pm ·

      John – great question with a very clear difference.

      First, we don't enable real-time chat as you browse. Nor do we only show conversations around URLs.

      We focus on a concept – a specific movie, or a particular book – and show you other friends who have interacted with that same object across the web.

      It does not matter what site they interact with it, you are connected around the common thing.

  3. October 28, 2008 at 12:20 pm ·

    Finally, a truly distributed social network that really is a network and not a destination. This may be the impetus for me to switch from IE to Firefox… Any plans for Glue to rollout on IE or other browsers? Thanks for such a great overview and endorsement.
    One concern, of course, is “big brother” aspect: everyone can see everything. In some cases you want to research something privately, e.g. fertility centers, and don't want to connect with your work associates about this. Shall I assume that there's a way to turn off Glue when you want to? Additionally, Glue trail could be used against an employee, etc. Interesting way for parents to monitor their childrens' web usage.

    • October 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm ·

      IE is coming — we're working on it, but in the meantime jump onto Glue with Firefox and let us know what you think.

      We realize that privacy is a concern for all of our users. That's why we allow you to have complete control over your data. You can remove any item from your stream of 'things', you can protect your actions so that only approved friends can see them, and you can also delete all of your data if you want.

  4. Pingback: BlueBlog: Introducing Glue

  5. October 28, 2008 at 2:41 pm ·


    Thank you for this thoughtful, great write up. As usual your feedback has been absolutely invaluable. That you for your time and passion, you push us hard to make our products better!

    • October 28, 2008 at 2:48 pm ·

      @Alex – My pleasure. Thanks for keeping the web interesting. Best to you and
      the AdaptiveBlue team for today's launch. I know Glue is going to be a hit.

  6. October 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm ·

    Steffan – awesome! write-up of Glue. You're blog is really looking awesome and with posts like this its no wonder readers are loving it. Great job bro.

    • October 28, 2008 at 6:16 pm ·

      @Ryan – Thanks Man. Right back at you. I dropped by your blog this morning.

  7. October 31, 2008 at 2:53 pm ·

    Hey Hey! Fantastic up to now. Thanks a lot for letting send the post link. Im on GLUE right now!

  8. Pingback: » Building A New Type Of Social Network: How “Glue” Is Using Semantic Technology To Change The Way People Connect On The Web | Steffan Antonas’ Blog

  9. December 5, 2008 at 3:24 pm ·

    Hi Steffan.
    Thanks for a great post and a clever link to semantic web. I agree this could be a game-changer.. at least a service that will make it easier to convince CEOs that the future of the web is all about the semantics :)

    Eyvind A. Larre

    • December 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm ·

      Great point, Eyvind, and I do think this is a game changer. Thanks for the
      kind words.

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  13. February 25, 2009 at 5:51 am ·

    Interesting stuff. We use a semantic web gold standard, FOAF, for keeping info about the social network in – I wonder – how can I make sure Glue will make use of it? Should we expose some info through xfn ?

  14. February 25, 2009 at 12:51 pm ·

    Interesting stuff. We use a semantic web gold standard, FOAF, for keeping info about the social network in – I wonder – how can I make sure Glue will make use of it? Should we expose some info through xfn ?