Unleashing the power of the buddy list

I’ve been using a number of different social networking sites recently – LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, AIM Pages, Digg, Netscape, YouTube, Yelp, Netflix. With every one of them, I face the same problem. When I join, I’m all by lonesome. (Except for my good buddy Tom.) I’m staring at a big, blank “Friends” page that screams “you’re a loser”.

For every application, I have to re-create my list of friends. If I forget to invite someone (even if they’re a user of that service), I don’t get access to their content. When I meet someone new, I have to add them to various sites. And if I have a falling out with someone, I have to remember to get rid of them everywhere.

This is despite the fact that I maintain a master list of friends that every one of these applications could leverage – my buddy list.

When I sign up for a new application, say YouTube, I should be able to tell YouTube that my AIM Screename is johndoe32. YouTube can then find out from AIM who else on my buddy list is a YouTube user and automatically show me their content based on the permission settings they’ve applied to the content.

YouTube could also incorporate their AIM presence as I’m browsing through content. If I see a video from a friend that I like, I can IM them right from that page.

If I want, YouTube could also use AIM to alert me of new videos posted by my friends.

This is a huge win, win, win:

  • Users benefit from streamlined friend management and easier access to communities.
  • Applications benefit by lowering the barrier to entry, making it much easier to adopt new products. Startups can get to market faster because they can offload the work of managing user relationships. Applications also benefit from the alerts on the IM platform.
  • The IM platform benefits with increased distribution and visibility on the application sites.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
This entry was posted in facebook, im, instant messaging, social networking, web 2, web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Unleashing the power of the buddy list

  1. mukesh says:

    my first reaction is, “how do i know the services won’t abuse the information?” for example, given email addresses, they might spam my friends. while buddy lists contain IM names rather than email addresses, the mapping from IM to email is trivial for some IM networks, i think.

    for me, that’s not an issue, since i don’t use my yahoo or hotmail email. but i’m not sure about others…

    on the application provider side, it make sense to me. all they need is a hook into either the IM client, or the IM network.

    that leaves the IM provider… and i can’t see an objection there. they might even make some direct revenue by charging a small amount for the buddy-list queries.

    there’s a question of the authentication model… do IM providers answer any query from an application provider, or perhaps verify the authorization via an IM to the user? (like how AIM handles simultaneous logins from a user.) but that is just a decision to be made… not a hurdle.

  2. rockya says:

    I see the IM provider acting mainly as an aliasing service. So when a user registers and provides an IM address, YouTube says to the IM provider user JohnDoe32 is using YouTube with alias 1234. When YouTube goes to pull friends for user 1234, IM provider returns only the friends who are also YouTube users. i.e. YouTube had this information anyway.

    As far as authentication goes, when the user registers their screenname, there needs to be an authentication process that confirms that that user is who they say they are. This could be done over IM, as you suggest. “IM registration bot: Someone is trying to register this screenname on YouTube. Type 1 to confirm, 2 to report abuse.”

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