December 7, 2007

A Practical Vision for Friends-List Portability

At this week’s Internet Identity Workshop, all the pieces finally came together. We now have the tools we need as a community to really make friends-list portability work–a way to give users back the control and power they deserve to take their local piece of the social graph with them wherever they go. And most importantly, a way to do this all securely, with respect and control for privacy and also the ability to find people that want to be found. There’s no more need to wait. Game on.
The three missing pieces that came together at IIW were OpenID (version 2.0 is now final), OAuth (version 1.0 is now final), and clarity on the roles and responsibilities of users, social networks, and social applications in an open social web. IIW brings together an incredible community of people, and it’s a major accomplishment for the web that all these technologies are now ready for prime-time.
I hosted a session at IIW in which I sketched a vision for how these pieces could come together to enable practical friends-list portability, and everyone was enthusiastic and supportive. And this included people from Google, Yahoo, AOL, JanRain, claimID, and members of the grass-roots community. In fact, I couldn’t get anyone to pick a fight with me over any of technical or privacy details, and this is a group that prides itself on picking fights over technical and privacy details! So I think we’re on to something big.
Here are the slides from my session (PPT, 408K), as well as detailed session notes from Chris Messina. If anyone has any further or feedback, please leave a comment here. Several people have also asked how they can help move this project forward more quickly. I think the next step is basically to do some strawman implementations of the various specs and glue code, and then to try and get it built into social networks and applications that “get it”. Let me know if you’d like to get involved in this community effort to open up the social web (this complements ongoing work from fellow Open Social Web trailblazers like Brad Fitzpatrick, David Recordon, Tantek Çelik, and others).
And as far as Plaxo goes, the fact that these technologies now have final specs and the IIW community has blessed the vision for friends-list portability, you can expect us to step on the gas here in a big way. This is what Plaxo does best: we help you get your data out of sites and services that don’t otherwise make it easy, and we make it work for you everywhere you go. There are a lot of sites that know who-you-know and a lot of social applications where you want to find people you already know. These open standards provide the foundation for solving this current inefficiency, and Plaxo is going to help put the solution in the hands of millions of users, sooner not later. This will be a major focus for us in 2008, and you should expect to see a lot more happening here very soon. It’s going to be a good year for the Social Web!
–Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect

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Redgee Capili

General Manager, Plaxo.com

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