Manage your social life with these apps

As Web 2.0 continues its path to Web dominance, we're managing more social profiles than ever before. That's why social aggregators can be such a help.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
6 min read

Managing social network profiles is getting more difficult. As we sign up for more services, we need to split our time between multiple sites. But with the help of social aggregators, we can limit those issues. The following tools do a fine job of keeping your social life in one spot, helping you to monitor it more efficiently.

I should note, though, that these won't be your path to social networking bliss. Some folks find aggregators too overwhelming. They believe these resources only complicate matters. You might agree after trying some of these tools.

I should also note that Facebook Connect--Facebook's single sign-on service that competes with OpenID--might soon match these aggregation services. Users can already bring some items with them to Facebook. It might only be a matter of time before the service allows users to pull full social network feeds into Facebook.

Social network aggregators

Atomkeep Atomkeep is designed to help you sync all your profile information across multiple social networks. When you change your profile information on the site, all the networks you sync with it will be updated automatically. So, if you're moving to a new home, you can go to Atomkeep, change your address, and it will update that information on Facebook, Bebo, and other social networks. The site is in private beta, so you'll need an invite code to try it out. For a full CNET review of Atomkeep, click here.

Sync all your accounts in Atomkeep Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Digsby Although Digsby is installed on your desktop and isn't quite a Web tool like the others in this roundup, I thought it appropriate to include it, since it does require the Web to work and it aggregates all your social network data in one place.

Digsby provides a three-pronged approach to aggregation: instant messaging, e-mail, and social networks. You can sign in to practically any IM program in Digsby, including AIM, Yahoo IM, and others. If you're a Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail user, you can also use Digsby to manage your in-box. But its integration of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn is quite appealing. The tool alerts you when you receive updates on your networks. Its news feed gives you constant updates about what your friends are up to. And when you want to update your own status, you can do it in Digsby without going to the individual social networks. But beware that right now, Digsby only works with Windows PCs. The company is promising Mac OS X and Linux support in the near future.

Get all your Facebook alerts on your desktop with Digsby. Digsby

FriendBinder FriendBinder is a new service that's currently in private beta. You'll need to sign up on the site to get an invite. Once you start using FriendBinder, I think you'll be happy with what you find. In a matter of minutes, you'll be able to update your FriendBinder status and see what all your friends are up to on a variety of social networks.

FriendBinder is quite similar to FriendFeed. You add all the social networks you use to your profile and watch as your friends' updates pass by. When a friend posts a Flickr photo, for example, FriendBinder lets you view it in the same window. Even better, you can update your Twitter and Facebook statuses right from the site. It makes monitoring and updating your social networks easy. You'll have no trouble performing all your basic social activities on the site. I really liked it.

FriendBinder lets you update your status on Facebook and Twitter. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

FriendFeed FriendFeed is the best social-network aggregator in this roundup. After you sign up, you're immediately asked to add all the social networks you belong to. Once complete, your FriendFeed is populated with your updates from a wide array of sites, including Twitter and even Netflix. You can add Flickr photos to your Feed, give users updates from Facebook, and more. It's a great way to communicate.

FriendFeed also lets you subscribe to other users' feeds. When you do so, you'll be able to see what updates they're making across all the social networks they belong to. You can comment on those updates, "like" them, or share them on other social networks. FriendFeed even lets you join groups with like-minded people. It's a great service.

FriendFeed has a great design. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Lifestream.fm Lifestream.fm is a useful app. After you sign up, it makes it easy to add your profiles from a slew of sources, including Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix. When complete, the site will populate your profile with all your updates across those social networks.

But when you start using Lifestream, you quickly find that, once again, it can't quite stand up to FriendFeed. Its design is a little suspect and I had trouble getting my Twitter account to work on the site. Those issues took away from an otherwise useful service.

Lifestream has updates on what's going on in your life. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Ping.fm Ping.fm lets you add all your social networks to the site and update them from the Ping.fm pages. The sheer number of sources you can update is incredible. From FriendFeed to Twitter and Bebo to Facebook, you can update your status practically anywhere on the Web with Ping.fm. And updating that status is quite easy. You need only to choose the service you want to update and you're all set. It's a good way to get all your work done in one place.

Ping.fm has a variety of social networks to choose from. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Pulse Plaxo's Pulse is somewhat useful for monitoring what your friends are up to on all their social networks. Once you sign up, the site lets you "connect" with others by asking for your e-mail address and password. It claims that it doesn't save your password. When you go to the Pulse page, you'll find a listing of all the recent updates made by friends on social networks. Although the site does support other social networks, I found that my stream was dominated by Twitter updates. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I would have liked more diversity.

Overall, Pulse is a fine tool. I liked having the option of grouping connections by family, friend, or business. I also liked how easy it was to add my social network profiles. It's worth trying out.

Plaxo Pulse
Get updates on those folks you follow in Pulse. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Profilactic Profilactic is quite similar to FriendFeed. When you sign up for the site, it asks you to input all the social networks you currently belong to. It doesn't have quite as many options as FriendFeed, but it's close. If you want, you can also add blogs to your stream, so followers can see what updates you're posting to your site.

You won't be able to see what your friends are up to unless you become friends with them on Profilactic. Considering it's substantially smaller than FriendFeed, you might have trouble finding friends to connect with.

Profilactic helps you customize your streams. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Spokeo Spokeo isn't nearly as useful as many competing products, but it does a fine job of aggregating all your friends' updates across multiple social networks, including Facebook, Pandora, Digg, and others.

When you first sign up, Spokeo asks you to input your e-mail address and password. It then uses that information to find all the social networks you are registered with. Once complete, it finds all your friends on those services with public profiles and lists their recent activity. Unfortunately, you'll only see previews of what they've added. I tried clicking on Flickr photos and couldn't open them. I also didn't like that Spokeo sends so many e-mail updates. I don't care if someone is searching for me. And I don't need to know its friend search is complete. Consider Spokeo a last resort.

Spokeo shows previews, but you can't open those pictures. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

1. FriendFeed: A no-brainer--the best in its class.

2. FriendBinder: It's new, but convenient and well designed.

3. Atomkeep: Sync all your social networks in one place? Are you kidding me?