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Social network aggregation is the process of collecting content from multiple social network services, such as MySpace or Facebook. The task is often performed by a social network aggregator, which pulls together information into a single location, or helps a user consolidate multiple social networking profiles into one profile. Various aggregation services provide tools or widgets to allow users to consolidate messages, track friends, combine bookmarks, search across multiple social networking sites, read RSS feeds for multiple social networks, see when their name is mentioned on various sites, access their profiles from a single interface, provide "lifestreams", etc.
Social network aggregation services attempt to organize or simplify a user's social networking experience, although the idea has been satirized by the concept of a "social network aggregator aggregator."
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Social network aggregation platforms allow members to share their other social network activities like Twitter, Youtube, Stumbleupon, Digg, Delicious, and other major platforms. One can also integrate their blog posts and comments in the aggregation platform. Everything is shown in real time to other members who subscribe to a particular community, which eliminates the need to jump from one social media network to another, trying to keep an eye on one's interests.
The aggregation is done by an API application. For the API to be able to access a user's actions from another platform, the user will have to give permission to the social aggregation platform, by specifying user id and password of the social media to be syndicated. This concept is similar to open id.
Social network aggregation systems can rely on the initiation of publishers or readers. In the publisher-initiated aggregation systems, the publishers combine their own identities, which make their readers see all aggregated content once subscribing to. In the reader-initiated systems such as Windows phone 7 people hub, and Linked Internet UI, the readers combine the identities of others, which has no impact to the publishers or other readers. Consequently, such systems allow publishers to keep separate identities for different readers.
In March 2008, The Economist reported that social network services are only beginning the move away from "walled gardens" to more open architectures. Some sites are working together on a "data portability workgroup", while others are focusing on a single sign-on system called OpenID to allow users to log on across multiple sites. Historically the trend from private services to more open ones can be seen across many Internet services from email and instant messaging to the move that early online service providers made to become websites. The OpenSocial initiative aims to bridge the member overlap between various online social network services.
Many users have accounts on several different social networking sites. In November 2007, Alex Patriquin of Compete.com reported on the member overlap between various online social network services:
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