IDEA #57A – Social Networking via your RSS subscriptions

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This post below is guest written by Michael Wales. It kind of extends off my last idea post — RSS Reader Influenced by your Peers. He talks about basically a service where you could upload your OPML file (what RSS feeds you subscribe to), then it would compare that against the pool of other users and show you people that read similar stuff — and you could then become their “friend” and/or see what else they read that likely would interest you.

As Chris Keller notes in my last post, Google Reader is so close to these abilities — however, they aren’t there — so there might be a possibility to launch something in this space that to Google Reader would merely be a feature, but you could likely turn this feature into a website.

Everyone uses different RSS readers — and exporting their latest OPML file is a manual process. If someone created something that could automatically export OPML files on behalf of the users (for the major RSS readers — Google Reader, Newsgator, Netvibes, Pageflakes, etc) — then this really could be a cool website. It could then notify users when someone has added a new feed that may be of interest to them.

I’m always open to guest posts — so if you feel you have something relevant to my readers (web-based startup ideas; radical concepts, etc), send it my way.

Michael’s post:

Much like in the days before the .com bubble, the target audience for many
of today’s applications is the early adopter crowd. Within this crowd
there is one technology used by all: RSS.

From bloggers to VCs, most everyone “in the know” has a feed reader full
of feeds that interest them. In addition, this same group is consistently
trying to expand their social network, using tools such as LinkedIn,
MyBlogLog, or merely commenting on the blogs within their respective
niche.

The key to social networking is identifying interests and allowing users
to connect with one another with the various tools that network provides
(messaging, photos, video, etc). What better place to collect an “interest
profile” than from a user’s OPML file?

This application would allow users to upload their OPML file (possibly
develop a kickass Google Reader competitor, that could further influence
users to give us their feeds). This OPML file would then be parsed and
compared to other users, developing “connections” between users with
similar feeds (thus, similar interests).

For instance, I’m sure Steve and I both have TechCrunch, Techquila Shots,
Mashable, and Read/Write Web in our feed reader (in addition to hundreds
of others). Steve and I may have varying tags for these feeds but the most
common denominator amongst them is without a doubt “web 2.0.”

It is then safe to assume Steve and I have similar interests and would
enjoy the connection made between us. Groups could be implemented in a
similar fashion, using the tags we place on an RSS Feed. Let’s say Pete
Cashmore doesn’t share any similar feeds with us (we’ll imagine he uses a
service like OriginalSignal, YCNews, or digg). But, Pete has tagged all of
these feeds as “web 2.0” as well.

Although Steve and I share a direct connection, via our actual feeds; Pete
is definitely someone we would find a lot in common with and an indirect
connection is made via the Web 2.0 group.

Additional features could be added as Steve has outlined in Idea #57.
Monetization could take the standard “through some ads on it” route or, as
I envision this being a more professional [see LinkedIn] social network
than others [see MySpace], a subscription service could be implemented.

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Michael Wales is the author of Betaflow.com. Betaflow.com, started in July
2005, covers the latest developments in web-based technology. Web 2.0,
AJAX, and more – all the buzzwords are covered with in-depth analysis and
reviews.