Real time sharing – it's the now

Yep that is one awful headline but I couldn’t think of anything less cheesy. It is however true.

The last 24-48hrs have seen the Facebook “frictionless sharing” debate come full front and centre once again. From what we are reading, to where we are, will be shared with people across our networks and through technology without us having to worry about hitting the ‘share‘ button.It would appear, most who are talking about real time sharing are in the “OMG this is going to end the world” camp (slight exaggeration I’ll grant you that). I am in the other camp and this is why. (Oh and if you missed it have a read of MG Siegler’s post from earlier today, it probably articulates my point better anyway).

Apple, Google and Microsoft are preparing us, Facebook is pushing us, and companies like Twitter and Foursquare have already got some of us there (it would appear a few of us are yet to realise this). Real time sharing, or as Facebook eloquently puts it, frictionless sharing, is an aspect of the new web that will become the norm in a few years.

In the first instance let’s look at the big three; Apple, Google and Microsoft.With the introduction of iOS5, Apple brought with it a number of new apps. One of these being Find My Friends which is nothing less than real time location sharing which can be set up between you and your friends/family’s iPhones allowing you to see at any time where they are (providing they have their phone with them).
Google+ has real time search implemented and it is addicting to watch the conversations roll in around different topics. Plus for the short while that their search engine was linked to Twitter (here’s hoping they strike a new deal soon) the real time web search was the most useful Twitter search engine out there.
Microsoft has been doing real time sharing in another form for years through Xbox Live. I can see which of my friends are online and what they are playing or watching at any time. This includes the times they are clearly playing dubious games just to increase their gamer score.

If you are a user of Twitter and Foursquare you have been doing near real time sharing for a while now. Especially those of you who state “I’m eating this”, “I’m watching this”, etc. Granted, to some these things may be interesting…to most perhaps not so much, but it is this kind of sharing that many people have become used to.

Of course the difference in most of these situations is that they were not frictionless. Xbox Live and the Find Friends app are more like where Facebook is moving. You have made an active decision to share these details and ultimately pressed a digital button to tell the world/your friends/a select group. What many are struggling with now is the passive behavioural sharing that is being introduced but ultimately is the next step. The evolution of sharing what we are doing in a care-free manner will allow us more freedom in our lives as it will become perfectly natural to be sharing information with certain groups and expect them to be aware of your activity.

These features will allow technology to become a part of our lives in an effortless manner. The goal of replicating and enhancing our offline lives online will be ever closer through passive technology. There of course should be some initial opt-in e.g. I am happy sharing this, I am not happy sharing that, I do not want these people to see this etc. We have a basic form of this right now with Facebook, and that is where it will take the majority of its users when it is rolled out to work across all apps, sites etc.

As always there will be some who question, some who will run screaming and others who will start #OccupyFacebook in protest to those changes. But do not then be surprised if, once Facebook have ironed out the kinks and sorted the initial privacy issues, we see everyone else introducing real time ticker feeds. Twitter are most likely testing website plug-ins that will share in real time what you are reading/watching on the web. Google will be working on similar features and one day Apple will introduce a “feed” app that plugs into you and your friends and family’s iPhones to let them know what apps you are using, where you are using them and how much time you have spent using them. Microsoft will continue to bring together their different products and in all possibility Windows 8 will have similar functionality taking inspiration from Xbox Live.

Real time sharing is in the future plans of the biggest tech companies. Facebook have made it the now (or at least the near future) and are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable. Ultimately because of that attitude they will always succeed.

Two other blog posts worth reading:
C|net’s Molly Wood who provides a good argument against Facebook.
The ever entertaining Robert Scoble who looks at all the facts and comes out on the side of Facebook.

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