territories and XML
FOAF stands for Friend Of A Friend, and it’s a decentralised way of tracking social networks. The idea is that I would add some tags to my blog or website saying “I count these people among my friends” and list my friends. Then lots of different social network applications could use this data. Stewart Butterfield has an interesting post about how, ultimately, there is no use for FOAF. Well, no, there aren’t many examples of actual usefulness of social networking systems. Though I did find an old highschool friend in Orkut. That was nice. And I know several people who’ve found true love in online dating services. Anyway, in a reply to a comment to this post, Stewart argues that the reason Friendster was popular was not that it allowed social networking per se, but that it became immensely popular, and allowed a lot of people their first experience of representing their identity online. Nothing new for those of us who’ve been hanging around the net for a decade or more, but huge for newcomers. Perhaps he’s right: perhaps that is the appeal. Perhaps the minimal opportunity to represent yourself is one of the problems with most courseware systems – though Torill’s discussion of Classfronter vs. Orkut and MUDs in terms of territoriality is also definitely onto something. FOAF is definitely tryinng to be non-territorial. Perhaps that doesn’t work.