Lately, 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?