Six Apart this morning launched a plugin for their MovableType blogging platform that aggregates and displays a user's activity from social web sites. Similar to FriendFeed, the Action Streams plugin displays things like, your latest posts to Twitter, images from Flickr, videos from YouTube, or events from Upcoming. The plugin is available this morning as a free download for MovableType 4.1 and currently supports 75 difference services.
Though Action Streams is very similar to FriendFeed and Plaxo Pulse, Six Apart is quick to point out that a key difference exists: you're the one hosting and controlling your activity stream. "Because Activity Streams is a completely free and open source framework that is extensible, it's easy for any coder to contribute to the project with your own improvements," wrote David Recordon, the Open Platforms Tech Lead at Six Apart, in a blog post.
Further embracing open standards, actions are published via the plugin using the Atom format and the Microformat hAtom, which Six Apart hopes will make it easier for people to move their activity streams around and use them however they like.
On some level, this development at Six Apart somewhat mirrors the direction that chief rival Automattic is taking with Wordpress: microblogging. A couple of days ago, Automattic introduced a new theme for Wordpress.com called Prologue, which adds Twitter-like functionality to Wordpress. Six Apart's plugin, meanwhile, basically allows users to create a tumblelog of content aggregated from the places they already post it (thoughts from Twitter, images from Flickr, etc.). Activity Streams and Tumblr are not perfectly analogous, the same way Prologue and Twitter are not, but they do all fit in the same category of tools.
To me these announcements points to a couple of key trends:
- A trend toward microblogging -- always on updates distilled to their most base form are becoming a more visible and important part of blogging.
- A trend toward open formats and data portability -- take your data with you and display it however and wherever you want.
So how long until Wordpress follows Six Apart's lead with Activity Streams? My guess is that the always strong Wordpress developer community won't take very long at all to kick something unofficial out. In fact, my friend Dan Grossman has been using a plugin he developed for his own Wordpress-powered blog to do more or less the same thing for months now (see it in action here). He hasn't released the source yet because others haven't expressed much interest to him. Perhaps that's about to change.
As more sites join DataPortability.org and we begin to hopefully see the fruits of their labor, things like distributed activity streams should become easier and more common.