With the flood of new products that have been developed as part of the web 2.0 movement, I have signed up for loads of products and services. Besides Flickr, YouTube, AOL Pictures, Digg and LinkedIn, I have too many profiles to even remember without really searching around the web. Several products have emerged in an effort to help users better manage and display all of their profiles in one place. This article will showcase these web profile aggregators more closely as we look to unify our online identities & stay updated with all of our contacts online.
ClaimID is a a service, created by a well-educated duo, that lets you claim the information that is about you online. The idea is that you will be able to claim back some control of your online identity rather than leaving it up to the search engines. ClaimID's "power to the people" approach supports OpenID and offers users the ability a single page to pull in links, photos and other web profile links to classify, annotate, prioritize and share the information, so that users are able to see the identity you want to present. ClaimID offers a bookmarklet that allows user to easily post links to their ClaimID profile page - this makes it extremely easy to keep your profile updated. Check out the ClaimID profile I set up here.
FindMeOn.com offers users the ability to create a record for just about any type of account possible. Unfortunately, I found FindMeOn.com’s design extremely unintuitive and though it strives to be so easy to use your Mom could use it, I would beg to differ. It was not easy to figure out how to add the various types of accounts and really reminded me more of a MySQL database console than a consumer facing web application. If I were FindMeOn.com I would put more emphasis on the "Locate" search which offers users the ability to search for people by email, screen name, real given name or URL – since this feature is easy to understand and could really be useful!
Lijit recently launched to offer users the ability to aggregate and add utility to their web profile information. Like many other web profile aggregators Lijit makes it easy to pull all of your accounts into one profile page like the one I created here. Lijit offers a number of profile options which makes the product more powerful as an aggregator solution. Lijit takes it a step further by then allowing people the ability to search all of their personal aggregated networks. The search functionality is run by Google Coop, a custom search offering by Google. I decided to add my personal network widget or “wijit,” as Lijit puts it, to the “About Frank Gruber” page on Somewhat Frank.
Mugshot is an open source web profile project sponsored by Red Hat determined to create something fun, social and entertaining on the web. Mugshot offers several product profiles options (i.e. Flickr, Del.icio.us, etc) but didn’t seem to offer as many options as other products, which could put it at a disadvantage as web profile aggregator. Mugshot does include its own social networking hooks which enable users the ability to find and interact with active people and groups. Mugshot offers a widget called the Mugshot Mini which can be placed on any blog or web site in a number of configurations. Mugshot provides users an optional download which enables users to display what music they are listening to via a Music Radar application which is similar to another product called MOG. The download also offers users the ability to share items with friends via a product called Web Swarm.
Naymz is a Chicago-based startup which I highlighted previously in this article on TechCrunch. Naymz offers a simple, textlink-based approach to display a number of profile links on a single page. Naymz offers a number of pre-configured profile options as well as the ability to add just about any type of profile you can think of as long as it has a feed or web site URL. Naymz also goes out of its way to make sure you are found on the web by buying your name as a keyword on Google so that when people search for you they find you either via a Google text ad or by organic search results. My Naymz profile can be found here.
Profilactic calls its profile aggregation a "mashup" as it pulls together everything about you into a single stream of information from each of your profile sources. Profilactic makes it easy to add all of your favorite social networks or any other individual site that offers a feed. Profilactic’s user-interface is clean and lays out information in easy to read oversized fonts. Profilactic’s includes some social networking hooks which allow you to add friends and share your mashups with one another. Another interesting feature is the "Clippings" feature which allows users to add links to articles or pictures that you are in that are not accounted for in other profiles. Check out my profile as a sample of what the profile mashup looks like.
ProfileLinker is another profile aggregator that takes on more of a social networking approach of its own though its user-interface reminded me more of an enterprise application. ProfileLinker seemed to be the most complex of the web profile aggregators mentioned in this article as it offered a number of pre-configured web profile options to aggregate into your page. Though I must admit adding profile options was not clear at first glance since ProfileLinker hides them in an auto-complete text field that populates as you type which makes it difficult to quickly add a number of web profile options. ProfileLinker enables users to find friends in a wide array of social networks by offering a comprehensive social network search. Aside from basic web profile aggregator functionality, ProfileLinker also offers a mobile experience which allows users to opt-in to text message updates when another user interacts with your profile. My ProfileLinker profile can be found here.
Spokeo creates a social network around aggregating the latest items from all of the users’ web profiles – think of it as wrapping all of your various site updates into one place. Upon entering the information from your online profiles, Spokeo provides users with three different web profile aggregator views which allows users to see all of their most recent updates to each of their own accounts. Secondly, Spokeo takes a very voyeuristic view by allowing users to switch over to see what all of their contacts from their web profiles are doing online. Users can see all of my contacts updates in one stream or filter them by profile type (i.e. Flickr, Digg, etc.). Finally, Spokeo displays updates from a group of featured users. Additionally, users can then add comments to aggregated content and recommend content to others within the Spokeo network.
Ziki provides a similar simple, single page approach to that of Naymz. Ziki also gives users the ability to buy text link ads to help ensure people find their Ziki profile when searching in MSN, Yahoo or Google. Users are open to add just about any service to this single profile and even can go as far as to add feeds or updates which can then be exported as an OPML file to be viewed from another feed reader or start-page product. Interestingly, Ziki has extending its profile pages to allow companies and groups to create profiles as well. You can check out my profile as an example here.
Interestingly, AIM 6.0, the latest version of AOL instant messenger, offers a number of features which leverage something called buddy updates to give users the ability to aggregate and share updates with contacts as part of the AIM experience. If you are an AIM user you can configure your account to give updates to your buddy list within the instant messenger product. Every time a buddy takes action on one of their web profiles an exclamation point icon appears in the AIM product which, upon clicking, displays their buddy updates. AIM recently launched a product called AIM Share which enables users to share links with everyone else in their network via the AIM buddy feed similar to Mugshot's Web Swarm offering.
With the large number of social networking and community sites the ability to manage all of your web profiles in one area is going to become increasingly difficult. In looking at all the options, I found Spokeo to be the most interesting web profile aggregator. Profilactic offered the best looking user interface and I liked the way it creates a sharable “real-time” mashup of all of your profiles. Lijit’s layout and network search emphasis offers great utility – I even added it to Somewhat Frank. Though Mugshot seemed to fall a little short in the number of profiles a user could aggregate, I have to give it a gold star for its open source effort. AIM is innovative in its leveraging the power of its existing AIM buddy network to provide web profile updates – it is extremely powerful. Naymz, ClaimID and Ziki are the most open to configuration options for added profiles to the most obscure networks while ProfileLinker buried the most pre-configure profile options behind a tough user interface. With all these web profile aggregator options you either need to pick one or a new niche for "an aggregator of the web profile aggregators" may need to emerge.
Disclosure: I am an AOL employee but have not worked on the AIM Buddy Update product.