Unified communication

A familiar part of being an online-dweller in the Web 2.0 world is that moment when you have to make a decision along the lines of “should I express this thought as a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook status update, an email, a forum post, an edit to a wiki, a…”

I assume I’m not the first to have the follow-up thought: “why do I have to decide?” We seem to have ended up with a handful of semi-standard ways to communicate with a wide audience, none of which serves exactly the same purpose, but with the result of having to either choose between them (which restricts the audience) or redundantly post to all of them (which fragments the resulting discussion).

Got my Google Wave invite last week, and so far I haven’t done much with it, but it does seem to be an attempt to face the problem of unifying a bunch of different ways to communicate – albeit by adding another different way to communicate.

I was about to say that the drawback of Wave is that it’s another instance of Google Owns All The World’s Data (at least we can be grateful that it’s not Microsoft), but I just checked the Wikipedia page (naturally) and apparently the plan is to eventually let anyone run a Wave server. So that’ll be interesting to watch.

Anyway, the point I was getting to was that I recently started having random thoughts about what a Grand Unified Social Network would look like. That led me to the Wikipedia page (again, naturally) on distributed social networks, but so far the term seems to refer mainly to attempts to get Facebook contact lists and whatnot into the open. Okay, maybe that’s just because the term is “distributed social network” not “distributed communication network” or something, but still.

What I’m vaguely imagining (and I’m more or less making this up as I go) is something where I post some data (say, a tweet/status-update-like message, but whatever) to my local Grand Unified Social Network Server (uh… GUSNS?) with some kind of visibility settings. Depending on the visibility settings, it pushes and/or makes it visible to other users on the same local server, and/or pushes it upstream to some kind of GUSNS hub in a vaguely DNSey way, which distributes it to other users. It might be attached to an existing message/user/object, like a conversation thread. And, unless it’s explicitly public, it’s encrypted using a key known to the circle of people to whom it’s supposed to be visible.

Okay, that description makes even less sense than it did in my head. Obviously I haven’t been thinking about this long enough.

Maybe I should go and read up on Wave and XMPP and whatnot and see if this is all just already done.

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