September 17, 2008

Portable Contacts is now Plaxo’s primary API

The Social Web is opening up, and services large and small are increasingly using a common set of open “building blocks” to integrate with the rest of the web. As many know, at Plaxo we think this is a great thing for users. for developers, and for our business. We’ve been early adopters and evangelists for several of these building blocks, including OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, and microformats. And recently we’ve also helped lead the charge to build another key piece of the “open stack”: a common API standard for accessing address book, profile, and friends-list data called “Portable Contacts“.
Last week, MySpace hosted the first Portable Contacts Summit, where participants from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, Plaxo, JanRain, ShopIt, Skydeck, Chi.mp, and others came together to show off the work they’d done so far and discuss the remaining details to get to a final spec. I think it’s fair to say that we were all blown away by how much progress we’ve made already, how energized all the players are to see this happen, and how close we are to seeing the vision of users empowered to take their profile and connections with them across the web becoming a reality.
In preparation for the Summit (and the Portable Contacts Hackathon hosted by SixApart the night before), fellow Plaxite Huy Nguyen and I built a full end-to-end Portable Contacts provider endpoint for Plaxo, as well as a vendor-neutral test harness that can show off the use of OAuth (including OAuth Discovery), XRDS-Simple, and Portable Contacts working together with any compliant service provider. We wanted to see if implementing the spec was really as easy as it should be, and also to provide some tools and examples to help jump start other implementations. It worked out great, and proved quite useful to others, so we decided to open it up for anyone that wants to jump in and start working on Portable Contacts themselves.
In fact, we’ve gone one step further. We’ve revamped Plaxo’s developer section to focus primarily on the open building blocks we’re using. Starting now, developers should consider OAuth and Portable Contacts the primary way to access profile, address book, and pulse connections data from Plaxo. The idea is simple: once you write code to work with Plaxo, you can use that exact same code on a variety of other sites. And if you’ve already integrated with one of those sites, you can start working with Plaxo right away. After all, one of the main drivers to create Portable Contacts was the pain developers face having to write custom, one-off API implementations against every site they deal with. So we think it’s time to start living the good life, where common specs mean less writing code and more interoperability with more sites.
As the Portable Contact spec goes through its final tweaks, we’ll keep our implementation up to date, and we’ll cook up some more sample code, tutorials, and other things to help you work with these building blocks–on Plaxo, or any open site. We’re not getting rid of our existing Plaxo-specific APIs (which also provide sync, calendar, and other functionality), so if you want to do a deeper integration specifically with Plaxo, let us know. But we think for most developers, working on the Open Stack will mean less time and effort to get up and running, and a better “bang for the buck”. So if you’re passionate about building services that live in the emerging Social Web ecosystem, we invite you to start playing with Portable Contacts on Plaxo, and as always, let us know what else we can do to help put users in control of their data!
–Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect

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Redgee Capili

General Manager, Plaxo.com

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