Openness and social networking

As you know, I am a huge believer in open standards and that open standards (over time) will usually prevail over proprietary, closed networks.  And my one wish from a social networking perspective was to really be able to manage all of my relationships from various networks and my interests from one meta-application.  In June this year I wrote about Linkedin and Facebook on a possible collision course.  And in November I wrote about the promise and potential shortcomings of OpenSocial:

OpenSocial is like Java for social networking apps-the promise of write once, run anywhere.  It goes back to my point I made in an earlier blog post - I am completely inundated now from requests from Facebook, LinkedIn, and now PlaxoPulse.  I am having a hard time keeping track of all of my contacts, messages, and the like.  It would be great if I could have a service that sat on top of these apps and allowed me to manage all of my relationships from one place.  Sure, some contacts may only be a Linked in contact, some may be a Facebook and LinkedIn, etc.  Check here if you want your music to be shared on this network and not the other one, etc.  You get the idea.

Of course, I thought that I was dreaming and that it wouldn't happen anytime soon until I read the announcement today that Facebook, Google, and Plaxo joined the Data Portability Group (see Read/Write/Web).

The DataPortability Workgroup announced this morning that representatives from both Google and Facebook are joining its ranks. The group is working on a variety of projects to foster an era of Data Portability - where users can take their data from the websites they use to reuse elsewhere and where vendors can leverage safe cross-site data exchange for a whole new level of innovation. Good bye customer lock-in, hello to new privacy challenges. If things go right, today could be a very important day in the history of the internet.

The proof will be in the pudding and in the implemenation as it is with Google's OpenSocial. That being said, this is a great move by Facebook, stemming the negative tide that was building about who owned their data and also, in my mind, locking them in as a defacto leader for years to come.  Facebook is the current gorilla in the space and gorillas do what they want.  However, rather than take on every other player who campaigned on the "open" platform, Facebook has thrown its hat into the ring, and I am sure will play a major role in helping make the standards as well.  Let's just hope our data is really portable and only when users can run their social networks and share their data from one or any platform easily will we truly be in an open market.  That being said I agree with Marshall that this could be an important day for the Internet, one where the consumer's voice truly carries weight and one where openness will prevail.

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