I've known Marc for many many years, and this isn't the first time I've realized how right he was, and how early. There's some glory in being too early, but not much money (unless you file a patent and it sticks and you're not more than 17 years too early).
To his credit, a couple of times Marc hit the mark almost perfectly. VideoWorks (which became Director) and MazeWars, which was the Angry Birds of its day, when the net was Apple's LAN, built into every Mac. Marc realized that you could make a game that worked over the LAN. We spent endless hours chasing each other in the maze we had at Living Videotext. A perfect time-waster.
The idea was this: Social network software should be a commodity.
His product was called PeopleAggregator. A very accurate but slightly frightening name. The premise was this: Every virtual place should define a social network. It should be as easy to start a social network as it is to install an email server, or a web server. And someday it will be. Marc's someday is actually in the past. He had that product a number of years ago. He was able to extrapolate to a future that we're now right on the cusp of. Who knows when it will actually be realized? Sometimes thse things take an excruciating amount of time.
Examples of virtual places that will be the start of social networks: NYU, Starbucks, BestBuy, my apartment building, Dunkin Donuts, Logan Airport, Verizon, Netflix, The Godfather, Five Easy Pieces, Dirty Harry, Casablanca, Fifth Avenue, Vail.
In a university, the roles you can play are: student, teacher, administrator, security guard, teaching assistant.
In the Godfather, you can play a consigliere, the youngest son, a farmer in Sicily. A spinoff, The Sopranos, has all the roles from the Godfather, with a few more, updated roles. In an object-oriented world, it inherits the properties of its parent class.
You get the idea. Every place that defines a clear set of roles is a place that can host a social network that means something to some people. Facebook and Farmville hint at the beginnings of this idea.
This is on my mind today because I just moved, and had to change my address at all the sites that I have accounts at. The two phone companies I use. My credit cards and banks. Etc.
I'm not sure I want every one of them to define a social network, but certainly AT&T and Verizon, if they had the kind of vision that a Zuck or Ev had, would have started one by now. Of course they don't have the vision. But soon they will. And who will provide them the "off-the-shelf-solution" that makes installing a social network easy, predictable and reliable.
Anyway, I just wanted to give the hat-tip to my under-appreciated friend.
PS: Marc is a bona fide visionary, but he puts too much faith in Google. I predict they will break his heart, like a Cupertino-based fruit company did once, very long ago. :-(