May 12, 2008

Plaxo Becomes Social Graph Provider in Support of Google Friend Connect

We’re passionate advocates of opening up the Social Web, and have been working hard on a number of initiatives in support of that vision (including OpenID, microformats, OpenSocial, consolidated online identity, and the Social Graph API). Today, we are pleased to add another (really exciting one) to the list: Google’s just announced “Friend Connect.” And we’re announcing that Plaxo will become a “Social Graph Provider” in support of this bold initiative to “socially-enable any webpage.”
What is a Social Graph Provider, you may ask? It’s any social network that elects to let its users take their “friends list” with them to use all over the open Social Web. We assert that this is a critical missing piece at the center of a “services layer” for the emerging Social Web ecosystem:

Social Web Ecosystem

The above chart shows all the parts, and how we see them fitting together. At the center is the user, with ownership and control of their data – and the freedom to take it with them, wherever they go. At the edge is a large and growing number of socially-enabled websites. In between, are a set of services that take friction out of the process for using yet-another social site:
Identity Providers give users access to a new site without having to create a new username/password pair. (Example: Yahoo’s implementation of OpenID.)
Social Graph Providers give users a way leverage their existing relationships, instead of manually re-creating them all over the place. (Announced examples: Plaxo Pulse, Orkut, MySpace and Facebook.)
Content Aggregators give users a place to see what their friends are creating and sharing all over the Social Web. (Examples: Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed, and a long and growing list, and recently, Facebook.)
As these elements evolve in the coming months, we expect to see lots of good things happening at socially-oriented sites of all sizes. But what if you could tap the power of this new service layer without having to directly interface with any of its elements? What if you could simply sprinkle in a few lines of javascript, and make any webpage social? That is awesome promise of Friend Connect.
A lot more to come
In line with this vision of a Social Web ecosystem, we’ve been working for a while toward becoming a Social Graph Provider. So, when Google approached us to collaborate on Friend Connect, we saw the perfect opportunity to turbocharge our effort. There’s still a bunch of work to be done, but at launch, the intent is to enable you to access your full address book or any subset of Pulse connections (family, friends, business network) on any Friend Connect page or site. Down the road, we intend to let you tell us which relationships are strong enough that you’d like to have them available to you elsewhere, without having to be asked to reconnect.
For now, we’re really excited to see how quickly all this is coming together. 2008 is really becoming “the year of data portability,” and the year in which we collectively evolve beyond the “walled garden” model of social networking.
John McCrea
VP of Marketing

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