Keeping up-to-date with all of your friends' activities across various parts of the social web can be a pain and that's where Spokeo hopes to make life a little easier. Started by four recent Stanford graduates, the service is best described as a social network aggregator which presents each user with an updated view of all of their friends' activities on sites such as MySpace, Digg, Flickr and YouTube. In fact Spokeo has support for over 20 of the most popular social networks, as well any site that provides an RSS feed.To begin using the service, a user submits their user name or profile URL for each social network that they belong to, from which Spokeo then imports any 'friends' associated with each network, ready to track updated content. To my surprise, this worked without a glitch and in my quick test I was instantly presented with a list of all of my friends on Digg and MySpace, along with their recently added content. You can also manually add additional people you wish to track, by simply adding each of their profile URLs or blog RSS feeds. However, Spokeo currently only syndicates publicly available content, meaning that it won't work on sites where a friend's profile or content is set to private or has restricted access. This is something that Spokeo will need to address if it is to work with the growing number of privacy-based social networks such as Vox or Multiply.
Spokeo also has a feature called "Recommend". When you recommend a post or any other content syndicated on Spokeo, all of your friends who are also members of the site will immediately see it on their Spokeo page. This way, content syndicated on Spokeo can spread beyond the first degree of friendship -- giving the site its own social dynamic.
In an email exchange, Spokeo co-founder Harris Tang told me that Spokeo currently has around 3500 users and that the priority right now is to build something useful rather than worry too much about monetization. The team are busy working on improving the UI and look and feel of the site, which certainly could be made to look a little less clunky. Looking further ahead, Tang wants to make it possible for users to browse the site and discover new and relevant content, so that Spokeo becomes more of "a personalized recommendation system that can automatically recommend content that the reader would care about."
Spokeo offers one solution to what I think will be a growing problem -- efficiently keeping track of friends' online activities across the social web. Technically the site worked without a glitch, where similar offerings often fail. However, from a design point of view, I think the team are right to spend time improving the User Interface and 'look and feel'. Right now, Spokeo is definitely a triumph of functionality over design.
If you are a company about to launch an exciting new social web service or product and would like me to take a look, get in touch.