Home Hulu Could Bring The Social Graph to Millions

Hulu Could Bring The Social Graph to Millions

Red hot TV and movie site Hulu has added a major new feature this morning on the one year anniversary of the site. Logged in users are now able to securely pull in their list of contacts from Facebook, Google, MySpace, MSN and Yahoo. The company calls it “Hulu Friends.” Though some skeptics have questioned the impact of social video watching, this kind of move is exactly what we’ve been hoping all sites around the web would do.

Identity providers are now making it easy for 3rd party content sites to turn content consumption into a social activity. From real-time conversation to recommendations, there’s a whole lot of potential here. That said, we do have some concerns about Hulu’s implementation.

Hulu’s addition of our social networking contacts, their profile information and in some cases their activities, collectively referred to as the “social graph,” is important for a number of reasons. There is so much user data available online and so much network effect left untapped that this kind of move seems like a no-brainer to us.

It’s notable as well that Hulu didn’t build its own social network from scratch. That would have been a waste of resources. Instead it is leveraging already established social networks elsewhere.

The most important consequence of the announcement may be that the OAuth protocol used to securely access social networking data without requesting a user’s password is now being placed in front of millions more people than it has been before. That’s good news.

Concerns About Hulu Friends

On the other hand, it’s sad that the OpenID community remains small enough to be left out in the cold by Hulu. In theory the site should be able to add an OpenID login button to its list and pull in standard Friend of a Friend data from any identity provider at all.

Barb Dybwad at Obsessable wonders whether Hulu Friends is actually a reason for Hulu to be less “friendly” with other social video platforms that want to play Hulu content in their communities – specifically Boxee.

Finally, we’re concerned that Hulu Friends isn’t being featured very prominently on the site. It takes a few too many clicks to get to the friend syncing page on Hulu. We’re not seeing Hulu activity pushed out to social network activity streams, either. In fact, it looks like Hulu is using the legacy Facebook API, not the fancy new Facebook Connect. Is the company being overly cautious about Hulu Friends? If they are, its limited adoption could become a self fulfilling prophecy.

All in all, though, we feel positive about Hulu Friends. We hope the company innovates on top of the idea and makes more moves towards integration with the open web.

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