Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Data Portability and Privacy on the emerging Social Web

This session was given by Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect of Plaxo. Plaxo is a great address management service, one that I use on a daily basis to synchronize my various address books. Their new Pulse service is also a great way to stay abreast of what your contacts are doing.
An increasing number of sites care about "Who you know." Even enterprises are waking up to this issue.
The Social Web today is broken...
  • Re-create an account
  • re-enter my profile
  • Re-find friends
  • Re-establish relationships
It is getting very frustrating...   But help is on the way. There are three classes of building blocks emerging:
  • Who I am
  • Who I know
  • What's going on
Who I am
Create a portable, durable online identity.
  • This is the protocol that has come the furthest. 
  • It is getting traction with over 200M (potential) users. It offers sign up using an existing account, such as AOL or Yahoo.
  • Link and share profile data 
  • It reduces friction and benefits sites and users.
You can consolidate online identities with me-links using rel=me (XFN) in hyperlinks.
Google's SocialGraph API has trawled for me-links across the web.
Bi-directional links become powerful. Plaxo's Pulse is a powerful example of using these links.
Who I Know
It is about building and maintaining real relationships. Contact APIs are growing to find people from your current address book because this leverages established relationships.
The next step is to leverage the granular investment in defining groups. OAuth is the standard way to trust between sites without revealing passwords. OAuth is gaining traction because it reduces the friction in building links between sites.
Friend List portability is the next phase in this evolution. This will provide continuous discovery across multiple sites. OAuth is a building block for this. This will leverage identifiers, whether they are twitter, Facebook or other identifiers.
OpenSocial is growing in popularity, driven by Google. It is an API being adopted widely by companies interested in social network capabilities.
RSS/Atom is another key tool for sharing activity updates.
Jabber (XMPP)  is also growing in popularity because it provides real-time distributed messaging framework.
The critical aspect is to follow open standards. Pulse is a leading example of the benefits of following these open standards.
How does this connect together?
  • Identity Providers (AOL, Yahoo, Google and others)
  • Social Content Aggregators (Plaxo Pulse is an early example.)
  • Social Graph Providers  (Who I know - An emerging category, Plaxo, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace etc.)
The bottom line: Open wins because the diversity and speed of innovation will beat the walled garden approach every time.