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 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)
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.
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.