Lifestream vs. Socialstream: A Battle of Nomenclature

This is a guest post from reader Trae Blain. You can visit his site at traeblain.com. If you are interested in writing a guest post, just head on over to the contact page

faucetLately, with the release of new software and updated web services, I’ve seen a blurring of what defines a lifestream. This is not a bad thing, and it indicates the impact of lifestreams on one’s online experience and the direction the current web culture is taking. What does get confusing is the use of the term lifestream to cover many different uses, each not exactly similar to the other. But essentially these uses can fall into two categories: Lifestreaming and Socialstreaming (a term I’ve accepted, although different terms have been attributed to this).

I do not have a hard definition for Lifestreaming, but what I’ve come to understand defines lifestreaming—in the online sense—as thus: the collection of one’s activity on various services (i.e. online life),  often arranged by time, into one central location. This is seen due to lifestreaming services will take all (or most) of your online activity and place that activity into one spot. Visiting Lifestream Blog’s Create page you’ll find a host of services that do just that. If I could recommend a couple that can get you setup rapidly: Profilactic, Storytlr, and Iminta.

The other camp has a subtle difference, but this difference has a huge impact on what it means. The process I’m dubbing Socialstreaming is defined this way: the collection of other people’s activity on various services (i.e. online lives), often arranged by time, into one central location. As seen, the difference lies with the original sources being yourself or a gathering of this information from your social contacts. A simple way of looking at socialstreaming is the gathering of your contacts lifestreams into a easily viewable place.

The two thoughts are based in the same spirit, but the most obvious difference is that a lifestream is made to publish all your activity for the benefit of others, while a socialstream is primarily personal to you. You don’t necessarily want to publish all your friends activity for everyone else to see, it’s a bit redundant. I’d say a chief socialstreaming service right now is FriendFeed. I call FriendFeed a socialstreaming services with solid lifestreaming features. A more recent development in the socialstreaming field is the release of the Skimmer desktop client. Skimmer labels itself as a lifestreaming application, but actually grabs your social connection’s activity and blends it with your own. The fact that Skimmer is not built around publishing all the information it collects and is built for your benefit, places it solidly under the socialstreaming definition.

Things like these examples blur the line as to what a lifestream truly is. I believe that the aggregation of people’s lifestreams will ultimately overtake the popularity of the internet’s current craze: Twitter. I believe Facebook sees this trend as well with their latest site design. Lifestreams will become the faucet where people’s lives are released, and services like FriendFeed, Facebook, and others will be the piping that gathers this information and directs it specifically to you…your stream of lifestreams…your socialstream.

It’s just my opinion, do you agree?

This Post Has 13 Comments


  1. wow, this was exactly what I was thinking about.

    Having a lifestream to keep track of everything I did.(only sharing some of them…)
    Then have one (or many) socialstream to keep track of everything other people did that I care about.

    There need a open standard… and some implementation of it…

  2. Great description between these two. I tackled lifestreaming versus aggregation a while ago. Even those are different terms to be used but that get confused often. http://bit.ly/4TFMi

  3. To be fair the term Lifestreaming goes back to the dark ages before the internet… Another term put forward by the DiSo Project is Activity Streams.

    I think that 'Socialstreams' are a natural evolution for displaying public, useful bits of Lifestreams. We can have amazing communities of practice instead of lonely silos.

  4. Great post. I cannot agree more. People keep asking us what is the difference between Storytlr and Friendfeed, and I give them the same answer: friendfeed is for you to consume the activities from your friends while Storytlr is for your friends to consume your activities. Both are complementary. The later being also a way to better establish your online identity.

    Now… the technology foundation is similar of course, so there is a lot of potential synergies between both services. Friendfeed acquiring Storytlr would make a fantastic service 😉

  5. I tend to prefer aggregator when talking about friendbinder (http://friendbinder.com), I've not heard anyone say socialstream as a general term, only to reference google's research project. Also I think socialstream sounds too similar to lifestream.

  6. Thank you all for the comments, I'll try to tackle a few.

    @IdoNotes : I like the term aggregation but it's is also too attached to another topic. It's a commonly used in term with regard to news feeds, so I think it doesn't clear the confusion.

    @ozten : Activity Streams is another good term, but again I see it attached to Drupal more than anything else, but could definitely be used.

    @eschnou : Hoping to get bought up? hehe.

    @Richard Cunningham : I agree that what socialstreaming is, is the aggregation of lifestreams, but using the term aggregation is cumbersome and broad. Lifestreaming could be defined in the terms of aggregation as well. Lifestream is catchy and without a formal definition someone can understand the gist of it, I argue this other use needs identifying nomenclature as well.

  7. Mark, even though I found you through a the monostream of Twitter quite some time ago, I'm glad I found this smart post through my socialstream on friendfeed.

    Subtle differences addressed in clear definitions like the two you describe here really help to discuss these topics.

  8. Kevin, glad you enjoyed the post. It was written by Trae Blain. There are many facets to Lifestreaming and he did a good job explaining one differentiation here.

  9. test #giannii

  10. test #giannii

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