AOL Launches Socialthing; Adds Life Streams, Social Sharing

Socialthing logo.jpgRemember that article I wrote about AOL’s upcoming life-streaming platform? Well it has come to market as Socialthing, which was incidentally the name of a social media aggregation startup AOL bought last year. It’s more than just a life-streaming platform — it’s a way for AOL to use its AIM ID and Bebo platforms to turn any web site into a social experience. I’m interested in this because of my belief that general purpose social networks are on the wane, and instead the whole web is turning into a social web.

The increase in bandwidth and pervasive connectivity is putting an end to the passive web. As a result, the nature of information and media is changing. By offering something like Socialthing, AOL is only trying to get ahead of the trend instead of getting pummeled by it. AOL’s in-house publishing unit, MediaGlow, is the first to deploy Socialthing on its 75-odd blogs and many other web sites. “Socialthing turns any media into social media, making it easy for people to share their experiences in real time with their friends, wherever they are on the Web,” said Joanna Shields, president of AOL People Networks. Think of it as a beefier and smarter version of CNN’s experiments with Facebook Connect during the recent election. They are leveraging a user base on their AIM and ICQ platforms of 60 million-plus to give this new effort a jumpstart, but the new platform is quite open and embraces other services as well.

Unified Sign-on — today use your AOL screen name and password and soon you’ll be able to use them for Bebo, Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo or OpenID.

Social Syndication — share what you’re reading or talking about with friends on Bebo, AIM, ICQ, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter friends.

On-site Chat and Instant Messaging — for having real-time conversations with others around the same topics.

The Lifestream Platform — a real-time, open platform for aggregating and distributing social feeds across different networks, including Bebo, AIM, ICQ, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. Socialthing-enabled sites can send updates to other Socialthing sites from mobile devices such as the iPhone and through the AIM and ICQ desktop clients.

The AIM & ICQ Messaging Platform — adds chat and Instant Messaging directly to Socialthing-enabled web sites. That means people can easily alert AIM and ICQ buddies to breaking news and interesting stories from across the web.

The AOL Open Authentication API (OpenAuth) — enables third-party web sites and applications to authenticate AOL and AIM users through their web sites and applications. OpenAuth will be extended to include support for single sign-on from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, OpenID and many other services.

So what do I make of this news? It’s a well-thought out approach to the increasingly social web. My only problem with AOL is the same one I have with Nokia: Despite the vision, they fail to deliver. I hope AOL proves me wrong.

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