The market is very fragmented at this point. Many sites treat each kind of media as a different type of thing. They only focus on photos, or videos, or social aspects. The ones that try to add in every kind of content also arbitrarily divide up the content into different sections. Photos are seen as different than music, which is different than videos, which is different than writing, which is different than any other new content.
Chat sites are confusing collections of multiple groups of people, many of which have absolutely nothing in common. The interfaces are shattered and chaotic, with 1000's of different logins and the need to register again and again. There is no way to transfer content between sites easily. There is no effective branding or brand loyalty of any website.
I think there is a space in this market for someone who can come in to provide a simple consistent view of media, chat, discussions, and social networking. Make it easy to have a single sign on and navigate among all the different groups.
If a company came in and made it easy and simple for anyone to upload any kind of content. Make a standard way to comment and rate and link to any kind of content.
But instead of rolling out a single web site targeted at everyone roll out different products each targeted at different groups of people. Build them all on the same framework and running on the same largely scalable hardware platform. Make it trivial to roll out a new website targeted at a different group of people. But all with a single signon and supporting multiple usernames for each group.
So you would identify your target audience, roll out a website for just that group. Teenagers, young adults, college students, older people, singles, professionals could each have an identifiable brand targeted at them. Because these are all based on common code with a common hardware platform you can have an index of everything available and recommend other products to people.
A single professional would be a good target for a dating site. A young computer professional could be a good target for a computer social web site. Groups of people of a certain age might be interested in specific music, or vintage gaming sites.
Make it easy to add any groups you want to your sign on and give an option to have a different user name for each group. Automatically manage the communications so that any reply to a communications from someone comes from the user name that it was sent to. There could even be an option for individuals to create new sites.
Because you are running all the web sites on a common hardware and software platform any addition of hardware or software features instantly adds benefit to every website. Your websites could rapidly add new features across the board while your thousands of competitors struggled to keep up.
Looking at the demographic data for your users could recommend new web sites to roll out and market to them. The new web site could have a specific brand, but still have the familiar features of the rest of the common platform.
The branding could be used to capture a teen market, an keep that age group, while transitioning people over to other company brands as they grow and mature and their interests change.
A very powerful concept that is not being exploited at this time is running a bit torrent client on all member machines, with 10 MB or 100 MB reserved on the localhost to share content to other users. This could be used to share popular content on the site by sharing the load with multiple users. So instead of slowing down, a wildly popular web meme being shared among all the users could be downloaded between all the users themselves, thus speeding up the sharing instead of making a central web server the limiting factor in such a common scenario.
This could also bypass any net neutrality measures that are being considered in the future, by going peer to peer with content.
Add in administrative tools, source code control, collaborative tools, bug tracking, content management and search, and you could roll out a single solution to small business users that can scale all the way up to tens of thousands of users in an enterprise or government role. Roll out a single server solution for businesses to keep all their user administration and intellectual property in house.
There are many websites on the internet that allow individuals to share pictures, videos, thoughts, files, provide email, chat and allow people to make connections with other people. Myspace comes closest to being a one stop shopping for all possible web features, but has an image problem. For instance, providing an employer with a myspace profile on a resume would be very unprofessional.
Google has a lot of services, but they are not presented as a single interface and many people are totally unfamiliar with what is being offered under the google umbrella of services.
Yahoo actually does a better job presenting everything they offer in a single interface. But Yahoo is so large that it replicates it's own web services in a variety of competing web services. There is yahoo and yahoo360. There is yahoo photo and flickr, which was bought by yahoo. This happens again and again across multiple categories.
Ideally we would want to have a web site design that we could use to roll out features in a generic manner that we can use to implement generic design features. This allows similar areas of a web site to work functionally identically, despite different content being presented. The video area should almost be functionally identical to the photo area, which should be functionally identical to the music and sound areas and so on.
I need the ability to upload files in supported formats, have them converted to the websites internal format, add tags, put the content into categories, rate the content, add the content to favorite lists, add comments to the content. Then others and I can search across all the different content for things organized with those tags or in particular categories.
I should be able to organize videos, pictures, files, content around a particular topic, and then group that into a page and add tags to it and put it into a group.
We should utilize a chat client based on the jabber standard, so that we don't have to support any clients, most generic chat clients support the jabber standard. This is the same approach that google used to enter the chat arena.
Any page can be a forum, attaching peoples comments to any page they have permission to do so. The person who uploaded and organized the content should be able to set the permissions on who is allowed to rate or comment, within the limits given by the website.
A user is invited to the web site or finds a link in a search engine to the site.
Do they need an account to post to the site? To see the content?
When they create an account do they need a valid email address?
Do they need to confirm that they are human using a captcha?
Both of these techniques cut down on automated creation of bogus accounts.
When they log into their account after this they go to a portal page.
From this page they can manage their
Account - who can see them, email address on record, cusomize protal, manage user names
Profile - who they are, what are their vital stats
Uploads - manage files they have uploaded in the past
add content to various groups once it is uploaded
Groups - what groups are they a member of?
Contacts - who have they allowed to contact them?
Messages - email, chat logs, blog and forum entries, comments to their entries
Calendar - their calendar of events.
Create your own groups
Create entries for groups you own, or for yourself
This portal will show alerts for new messages, or for when calendar events are scheduled.
A community news type listing will show from all groups they are a member off, congregated rss feeds.
You can also opt to just see news from the entire site, rated by other members.
These are instant messages that were sent from friends when they were offline, emails, responses to blog entries or messages regarding comments on blog or forum entries.
Voting system for content. Everyone can give a limited number of thumbs up and thumbs down in the system.
It's a discussion area for each item. Groups, events, uploaded items, blogs, person, all have their own area for discussion.
Each forum can have multiple threads of discussion. The last dozen or so active discussions are show for each forum, with the rest archived off the main page. A blog is just a forum with a main entry.
A blog is just basically a forum attached to a person under that persons control. Only that person can add top level entries to it, and people can only comment as allowed by the owner.
Groups have similar access control and forums to a blog for a person. Only multiple people can add entries, and manage the account and comments based on their access level.
Every comment is versioned, so that someone can update their blog or a comment, but it's history of changes is always available.
The owner of a forum can nuke a comment or thread with a message to those who wrote the message or participated in the thread and block the people involved from participating in that forum for a number of days. The owner can also block abusive individuals from posting in forms that they control as the owner for a number of days. It is their content, they should be allowed to judge who is commenting on it. Meta control by site admins should ensure that people that are not being trolls are not arbitrarily blocked for just posting a rational comment that disagrees with the owners posting.
Plug ins for Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Safari, and IE allow sharing of bookmarks across browsers on various machines and allows you to share parts of your browser tree with friends.
Plug ins for file sharing using bit torrent and others can also be a great item for the site.
Group owners have to approve uploads for their own site.
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A best of bred web community social media sharing web site should eliminate the arbitrary distinctions between photo, video, music, files, blog entries, calendar entries and the like. It should treat all of these and future ones as just content and allow it to be merged into blog and forum entries for individuals, websites and groups and share between areas as the uploader wants. This will automatically tag the content with the tags and groups that the forum entries are a part of and allow the indexing of content as well. The user can add additional tags and categories to the entry as well and auto tagging will be done based on key words and phrases. Anything that they user has ever uploaded should be available to be added as an entry that can be inserted into any forum.
The content can be displayed in traditional video, music, photo categories in separate indexes, so that it looks like traditional web sites, but can also be index and searched across these arbitrary borders, making it look like a new category of media web site, ready for any new media format that comes out in the future.
In order to merge blogging, community news, interesting links, groups, messaging and commenting on user uploads, a common container called a forum should be used across all this content. The owner(s) of a forum is the person that owns the item being commented on. They have full admin rights to control over a forum and any entries to that area. If this is a group, then they can distribute rights to others, including others at their level of access. They can allow various methods of voting content up or down in their forums. But this voting should be limited to just a few votes a day, to limit any one individuals impact in an area. Items can be displayed in an forums front page based on criteria that is easily set, including vote levels and age.
The web site should allow contacts to be made through group chat and through introductions from mutual friends. People should be allowed to request contact with a limited number of people per day, and if that contact is refused, then they should not be allowed to request contact again for a set number of days. Individuals should be able to set criteria to auto block any request from anyone that is outside of an age range, or based on their group membership. By default anyone under 18 should be protected from having anyone more than 2 years older than them attempt to communicate with them. Once you have communicated with a person, then you can put each other onto a friends list that will allow email and chat communications.
By leveraging the jabber instant messenger system the site can avoid having to maintain any chat clients for their users, as many chat clients will support jabber protocol. The friends list can come right from their friends list on the site, but you can further block people from chatting if you like, while still allowing email. Group chat is also easily done this way, by sharing people chatting in a certain group with each others jabber client. Chat logs should be available online to the individuals that were in the conversation or that were in that group by day and individual chat.
It would be easy to set up groups in a web site based on geographic region and allow the jabber client to let anyone that is a member of that group to chat with others in their own geographic region. Chat could be by topic as well.
There should be plugins to merge the users bookmarks and passwords across browsers and machines, using the site as a master database. This plug in could also allow people to tag web sites and share web sites with groups or friends with a small comment, so that these sites could be commented on and added into a groups shared bookmarks or sent to a friend and allow that friend to visit the site or allow the group to comment on the website.
A tool should be available to upload content with a mandatory comment (after all, a social web site should be about communication) in a user friendly manner. This is for people to upload a lot of content to your site. Don't limit this in quantity, although you can limit the speed at which the upload happens. People are doing you a huge favor by adding free content to your site. You could have a standard file format to automate uploading file formats to the web site. Share this upload format and help it become a standard. Allow people to download their content from the website in the same format. A file upload native client is a lot more robust than an http upload of content. You can also throttle the uploads and do the majority of them in slow times. Give progress bars and allow uploads to continue if interrupted from the point they were stopped so it doesn't have to all go up at once.
Users should be able to grab contact lists from mail clients and im's and request those people becoming their friend on the site.
Users should be able to have different user names across the groups and websites. You should be able to group people into groups and communicate with them using group user names so that this will keep your work and groups of friend separate.
A work area can have a list of places worked and when and allow recommendations from coworkers that also listed the same areas.
Treat each user name as a completely different person with no links to others. You choose who you are when you join a group for that group.
You can copy friends across groups despite different user names. Your communication with them is based on the user name of the group you have them in.
Tie into other email accounts and pull the mail to this site automatically. Also allow old email to be uploaded to the site so that it is all standardized into a fixed format.
Contact lists can have arbitrary properties added and populated.
The tag system can be applied to web links, contacts, content, groups, and let you group things by tag name. Searches can be across your content, group lists, friends lists, web site, multiple websites.
Based on the web links being shared with us being placed into your group and tag structure we should be able to create an index of highly targeted links that our users are interested in. Based on the tags and groups that the items are a member of we should be able to automatically create a drill down directory of links that is easy to customize for many different users.
Word cloud search.
Automatically search tags and content for each page and populate a cloud of words, the more important a word, the bigger and more central it is. Allow searches based on clicking on these web clouds to drill down into the results.