Jeremy Zawodny has an interesting idea for Friendster and the world of social networking sites:
Like Google’s similarly named dead technology, PageRank, think of FriendRank as a way of providing a measure of influence among “friend nodes” in a social network. Imagine, for example, that Howard Dean wants to convince me to vote for him. He can either advertise in the hopes of reaching me, or he can be a savvy Internet sorta guy and try to use my social network (thru the Internet, of course) to do the job.
At first you might think okay, that’s easy. You just need to find the shortest path thru the network from Howard Dean to me. Then you’d figure out who along the way he needs to contact to try to get to me. Well, maybe. Social networks aren’t that simple. They don’t always use the shortest path–at least not in the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” sense. Often times they use the most well lubricated path. Or the path that may result in reaching the greatest number of people who are “close” to me. Or those that have more influence with me in matters of politics, as opposed to something complete unrelated like cat grooming.
You get the idea. Like PageRank, it’s a multi-dimensional measure that could prove to be quite powerful if applied properly. It’s like a routing problem with different dimensions involved.
FriendRank would quantify that stuff. It’s the algorithm used to find paths of social influence in various contexts, for various purposes, and in varying networks. Or maybe it’s the value that algorithm produces for a given set of inputs.