Will SocialStream be Google's Facebook Competitor?

This past weekend there was a lot of buzz around a Google research project called SocialStream. As expressed on the project page:

Socialstream is the result of a Google-sponsored capstone project in the Master’s program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. This project was guided by three goals that built upon each other:

Initial Task: Rethink and reinvent online social networking

Refined Focus: Discover the user needs related to social networking and explore how a unified social network service can enhance their experience.

Prototype Goal: Create a system for users to seamlessly share, view, and respond to many types of social content across multiple networks.

I took a quick glance at a demo movie of the project and it seems fairly interesting at first glance. It has a similar concept to the Facebook news feed in which all of your friend’s recent activities are listed. There’s also some chat integration features and that’s about it. I wouldn’t exactly call this revolutionary but it would definitely be an upgrade to Orkut’s (Google’s existing social network) current interface and feature set. Will it help Orkut become a competitor to Facebook? Not any more than it already is. Orkut already has their group of users and Facebook is focused on theirs (which is slowly cutting into Myspace’s user base). As I mentioned in my other blog yesterday, social networks will be focused on carving out niches (some obviously bigger niches than others) and eventually will become alternative platform offerings.

The main question that I have yet to answers is once social networking platforms become open, will they have to find a way to intercommunicate? While I see widgets as being the building blocks of social networking platforms, I’m not sure if social networks will eventually need to find a way to communicate. While this would eventually lay the groundwork for the ultimate people search engine, I’m doubtful of it happening. Each of these social networks will continue to serve their own best interest. Finally this leads to one last question. Will users eventually have personally identifiable “virtual cards” or something along those lines rather than being defined within the constructs of social networks? Kind of like an identity card that incorporates multiple identities. Just a thought! Oh …. as to whether or not SocialStream will be Google’s Facebook competitor? I think it will be their attempt but I don’t think it will be their ultimate competitor.