Why do people use Facebook? What does it offer, besides an enormous user base, that makes it such an attractive internet destination? At it’s core, it’s just a tool for sharing short posts. Twitter and Tumblr also accomplish the same thing, for the most part.
Blogs can do everything Facebook or Twitter can do, though they lack the centralization. You have to manually go out and visit them to see what’s new, or use RSS, which isn’t exactly intuitive to less technical users. Blogs are, in their barest form, a reverse-chronological listing of postings. Those posts can be of any length, and contain any type of information. Plain text, images, audio, video, etc.. Some platforms, like WordPress and Tumblr, even offer features to differentiate between types of posts. Photo galleries? You can even do that if you set it up right. Profiles? That’s what About pages are for.
The only thing that’s missing is a standardized federation API that broadcasts information about a blog, linking them together so you can have user-friendly news feeds like Facebook or Twitter. The API would include basic profile information, such as your name and the URL of your chosen avatar, the URL of the blog, and anything else that a social networking would need to query.
Using that information, a user could skim through their friends’ latest updates from a convenient dashboard. It would pull in information from the federation API and aggregate public posts.
WordPress.com is already doing something along these lines, only it’s internal to their hosted service. You can “follow” a WordPress.com blog, and its posts end up in a news feed of sorts. Imagine if it became a part of the open source WordPress project as well, and any WordPress blog could be followed in the same way. And if it was later opened up and inter-operated with other platforms as well. You could even follow non-personal sites such as Smashing Magazine, much like you would a “fan page” on Facebook.
Just add remote replies, so you can comment on a post without traipsing over to the other user’s site, and you’ve got a social network. You could even have mobile apps. WordPress and Blogger have had XML-RPC APIs for a long time, and the WordPress team even made an iPhone app for on-the-go posting an comment moderation. Add the aggregation into the mix, and you basically have Twitter or Tumblr, but more open.
Given the extensibility of the more popular blogging platforms, WordPress especially, it wouldn’t be out of the question to handle it as a downloadable plugin. The idea would probably gain more traction if the Automattic team was on board, though, and integrated it with WordPress.com.
Forget Google Plus or Diaspora, the future is going to be even more open.