Most existing social networks are built upon the model of a timeline. But if we come to a network to find out what our friends are up to, what we probably would like to see is what Y has been doing or saying lately. While it is true that it is possible to pull up the profile and posts of Y, this is not very practical. Furthermore, perhaps they have been active on Pinterest but not on Facebook, and if I really want to follow them, I'm going to need to go into each of their networks, then check their profiles there. There are plug-in services for email like this, such as Rapportive. When we begin to write to someone, it will check their network activity. But this is not an average use case.
So what I would really like to see is the following arrangement. There would be a contacts list, on the left hand side, and on the right, a series of columns, one for each social network, as well as personal sites and blogs. The engine pulls in activity feeds for each place. If a person has been active somewhere, anywhere, a green light shows up by her name, with a matching light in the column corresponding to a certain network. If I am friends with them on a given network, or if the post is public, I can hover over the green light in the column, and the post itself pops up so that I can read it without having to go into that social network. The social networks can monitize this activity by sending ads along with the posts.
My ideal network engine would do more. It would suggest new networks where I can meet my friends. If a person is a member of a network of which I'm still not a member, or if I am not acquainted with them on that network, it will tell me. If a number of friends have joined a network of which I am still not a member, it will also suggest to me that I might consider joining that network too. Because people sometimes use different identities on different networks, there would be the possibility to add content manually, as well as personal sites, blogs etc.
The contacts list would also be a source for additional contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, etc. and provide an indication of the preferred method of contact.
Further, the engine will present a number of different views. It will be viewable as an alphabetical contacts list, but it will also be able to sense, via my interactions, which persons I'm closest to, and then order the list according to this. There will also be a view which shows which posts are trending among my friends, or are most viral, across all networks. It will also be able to show me which recent posts by a given person are most popular, based on likes, re-tweets, comments, etc. Finally, it will show me, based on tags and topics, what my contacts have to say upon a given topic, and be able to prioritize this activity according to popularity.
This isn't a very complicated idea. But it would certainly be something of value to many of us. It would build engagement in social networks, provide the opportunity for new ones to surface, and give us a much clearer view of what our friends are doing, how they are expressing themselves, and where.