All of the social networks have three intersecting concepts of Friends, Groups and Activities (sometimes called events). We have been thinking about this a lot as they apply to the broader Social Web and how what we do in our normal social interactions gets reflected on the web.
In our real lives, we have lots of “friends” and are involved with many groups where those friends are intermingled. For example, I have my family, my personal friends, the folks who work at Ringside, the various companies I work with, the various people I meet on behalf of Ringside, my running friends, the high school runners that I help coach, the people I meet at the running store, etc. What makes those groups meaningful are the activities that we have together. The family vacations, the dinner with friends this weekend, the planning of the next release of software, the kick-off run and party for the new runners on the team, etc.
Many websites offer activities – buy a pair of shoes, book a hotel room, buy tickets for a Phillies game. Each of these can be social in nature. Shaun Connolly wrote a bog about Social Window Shopping and one of our partners, Optaros, is writing a very cool ecommerce application that makes the shopping experience (like buying a pair of shoes) more social. Two weeks ago Shaun and I both made reservations to go out to California and we each booked a different hotel (not very social!). And there ought to be an easy way for me to organize a group of my friends to go to a Phillies game (and not all of them are on Facebook!).
The point is that Activities we do on the web need an easy way to become social in nature. And I think the locus for this is not around the social network or social graph per se. It is centered around the activity and who is going or not going and the decision making process around that. So while today the big social networks like Facebook and MySpace garner all the attention of the social web, the real opening of the social web will come when all websites offer ways to socially interact.
Over the next couple of weeks we are hoping to release a new beta version of our software that will introduce this idea in an open and flexible way. One that let’s any activity gain a social context. One that crosses the various social networks (and non-social networks). One that any website can implement easily.