Social networks open out – celebrating the last year’s change but “lots more work to be done”

In the last two days MySpace has announced Data Availability and Facebook launched Facebook Connect, while Google is due to announce “Friend Connect” on Monday, according to TechCrunch. MySpace and Facebook are providing ways to open out users’ access to their data on those social networks. TechCrunch says that Google’s initiative may not be quite as open as the other initiatives, in that it will require data to be accessed directly from their servers each time rather than being able to be downloaded and manipulated (under strict terms of service), However Open Social, which Google’s initiative is based on, is being used by most of the major social networks other than Facebook, making Friend Connect potentially broader in scope, as long as the social networks supporting Open Social choose to use the new offering.
I wrote last year about how the dominant platform in technology is shifting to social networks, and the inexorable trend to openness in social networks. It turns out the MySpace and Facebook announcements may not be quite all they seem. Chris Saad of the DataPortability Working Group writes:

Both moves have rightly been attributed as ‘Data Portability’ plays – but neither of them are true ‘DataPortability’ implementations… yet.

They are each proposing and implementing their own specific mechanisms, policies and technologies for moving the data around, and none of them are allowing true two way sync.
Over the coming months it will be our job, at the DataPortability project, to further refine and ratify the DataPortability Best Practices to provide a complete, end-to-end guide that Facebook, Myspace and others can follow. Once properly implemented, all applications on the web will essentially become part of a friction free inter-operable and two way data layer based on open standards.
It will be up to bloggers and other media outlets to keep the pressure on these players to continue to improve their offerings to achieve true compliance based on community recommendations made through the DataPortability project.

Given that DataPortability was only fully launched in January, I think the momentum so far – at least in the social networking space – is excellent. It would be fantastic and quite extraordinary if the major social networks were to have fully embraced the functionality and spirit of DataPortability by now, given the very closed strategies that were being adopted just one year ago.
It really is worth getting perspective on this set of announcements by comparing the landscape with a year ago. The fundamental attitudes and strategies of the social networks have changed, by necessity, driven by user demand. Since the social networks are increasingly the platforms for the entire ecosystem of individual online activities, this rapid shift towards openness (even if it has a further to go) will swiftly diffuse through other applications and across the Wide Open Web.

By Ross Dawson on May 11, 2008 1:13 pm | Permalink