The Unveiling of a New Distributed Social Platform Called Glow

Today my friend Louis Gray got the scoop on what Cliqset cofounder Darren Bounds has been working on since the recent sunsetting of that site. First off if you weren’t familiar with Cliqset, it was a great Lifestreaming site that I covered in the past and packed more features and accordance to open standards than any other service out there. Unfortunately it came at a time near the end of the Lifestreaming (social service aggregation) craze and just like all the sites before it including Friendfeed, ran up against the difficulty of gaining mainstream adoption and finding ways to monetize it.

Lucky for us folks that still see the value in Lifestreaming, Darren is building something new based on that knowledge and experience albeit taking it in a new direction. His new project Glow aims to take a crack building a social network utilizing both a hosted and distributed approach. This is no easy task. As we’ve come to find out by the recent attempt by the Diaspora team to do this after forced into the spotlight over a year ago. It wasn’t short after the Diaspora announcement that I wrote about the need for an open and federated social network but citing that Diaspora is probably not the likely team to build one. Fortunately for us Darren’s previous experience and clout within the open standards community is one of the few people that is qualified.

Glow takes a departure from the complexities of aggregating 3rd party services and tries to take a simple approach. This is probably a good thing as keeping things simple will be crucial for any service to gain adoption. Here’s some more details from Louis’ post:

At launch, Glow will offer a centralized option, as well as the opportunity for you to launch your own dedicated node, the equivalent of running your own single user copy of  Twitter that looked and felt just like it does on, with the same users and experience.

From a feature perspective, Glow will support all the features of a modern social network, with the usual status updates, photo and video sharing, implementing the “follow” model, along with likes, mentions and comments. Additionally, the service is location-aware, which brings forward its own opportunities.

So on the surface it sounds very similar to a basic mashup of Twitter and Facebook. He’s also developing an API for the service. I don’t have to tell anyone that it’s going to be very challenging to get new users to migrate to a new social network. I think there are several key things that any aspiring service needs to do to attempt such a lofty goal of trying to supplant Facebook, Twitter, or both. They need to ease folks in by offering the ability to syndicate to those outposts as well. It will take time to transition people to a new network and by offering the ability to let them continue to post and share on existing services they use will be important.

Another key ingredient is getting other services that users participate on to add syndication options. I used to struggle with the all or nothing aspect of Lifestreaming services when connecting 3rd party sites. Now with great services like Instagram and Picplz I have the power to easily select the external services I want to syndicate to on a per post basis. This has been a huge advantage for me as I can now selectively choose which images to share on which networks. Getting these types of service to offer syndication options can also be a great way to lower the barrier to entry.

Of course Glow and Diaspora aren’t the only new services out there trying to build a distributed social network. If you read this blog with any frequency you’ve probably noticed that I’ve become a Locker Project fanboy of sorts. This project (primer here) is also in a position where it could become a big player in the distributed social network race and hopefully we’ll soon get a taste of their offering.  Their approach of creating an open source project that will also have a simple hosted option in Singly will also prove to be a serious contender.

I’m glad that we have several great minds working in this area. It’s hard to say what direction both users and each of these projects will go in, but the fact that they’re being built is a great thing wherever they ultimately take us.

5 thoughts on “The Unveiling of a New Distributed Social Platform Called Glow”

  1. Thanks for the writeup Mark! To be perfectly honest, Glow really is more of an experiment. I personally do not expect it to gain mainstream adoption as I don’t believe the average Twitter user is prepared to run their own ‘node’, even it if it is self-updating and free. 
    Then again, who knows! 😉

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