The real roadblocks to data portability on social networks

I see that Yahoo has joined up with Google’s Open Social. That’s cool because it will let developers build gadgets, widgets, social networking applications, or whatever we’re calling these things that are like Facebook apps, twice, instead of dozens of times. Once for Facebook and once for everyone else. That’s really great, because it’ll encourage developers to build a bunch of new stuff and get the promise of a lot of reach. At least once the platform is done and it all works as advertised (devs tell me it’s not there yet, but coming along).

But I, and many of my friends, care much more about true data portability. Here’s a few things we want to do:

1. Many of us are on more than a dozen social networks. I’m on Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Upcoming.org, FriendFeed, SocialThing, Profilactic, FastCompany.com, Twitter, Pownce, WordPress.com, Disqus, and many more. You didn’t think each of those is a social network, did you? They are. The problem? Well, this year I wanted to change my email from robertscoble@hotmail.com to scobleizer@gmail.com. Doing just that simple action is a pain in the behind. If we had true dataportability we’d just change it in one place and the change would ripple through all other social networks.

2. When a Facebook user friends you and gives you his/her email address it’d be nice to have that automatically placed into your favorite email client so you could actually use it without having to type it in again.

3. When a new social network comes along (say your company turns one on this morning) I’d love it if it noticed that 15 of my friends who join up there are also on Twitter, etc. Why is that important? Because if there were some way to bind these social networks together they could do a lot more for you. For instance, I know that Scott Beale is on almost all of my social networks listed above. Why don’t the systems know that? If they did, we wouldn’t have a need for FriendFeed, or Profilactic, or SocialThing (those systems are attempting to glue all those social networks together).

So, what’s the problem, beyond the politics of some of this stuff (will Facebook join the Dataportability.org? Who cares? Has the Dataportability.org actually shipped anything yet beyond PR?)

WHAT IS THE HOLDUP?

It’s not easy to do any of this stuff. On Saturday I talked with Dave Morin, head of Facebook’s application platform.

He brought up use case after use case that I hadn’t really thought through.

For instance, what if a user wants to delete his or her info off of Facebook. Today that’s possible. But what about in a really data portable world? After all, in such a world Facebook might have sprayed your email and other data to other social networks. What if those other social networks don’t want to delete your data after you asked Facebook to?

Another case? How do you define spam? Based on my experiences lately lots of people define it differently. I don’t mind “noisy” systems, but some people really are bothered by that. So, if you’re over on Facebook and you give friends your email address and then that opens you up to “noisy” systems, how do you feel about Facebook?

Another case: you want your closest Facebook friends to know your birthday, but not everyone else. How do you make your social network data portable, but make sure that your privacy is secured?

Another case? Which of your data is yours? Which belongs to your friends? And, which belongs to the social network itself? For instance, we can say that my photos that I put on Facebook are mine and that they should also be shared with, say, Flickr or SmugMug, right? How about the comments under those photos? The tags? The privacy data that was entered about them? The voting data? And other stuff that other users might have put onto those photos? Is all of that stuff supposed to be portable? (I’d argue no, cause how would a comment left by a Facebook user on Facebook be good on Flickr?) So, if you argue no, where is the line? And, even if we can all agree on where the line is, how do we get both Facebook and Flickr to build the APIs needed to make that happen?

Another case? You go to Flickr. Change your email address. Then you go to Facebook and change your email address to a different one. Now you head over to Twitter and change it again to yet a third one. Which one is correct? How do these systems, not owned by the same companies, figure this out? Time stamp? What if you actually want the systems to use three separate email addresses?

And we went on and on.

So, the story is, doing the simplest of data portability (for instance, making all systems understand when I changed my email address) is going to take a lot of work and a lot of cooperation between all of the players). Doing the toughest stuff (like sharing of some of the social graph, or making things like photos and videos portable) will take a lot longer.

I’d be surprised if we see some real movement on data portability between a good number of systems by the end of the year.

Do you expect any better?

Comments

  1. “For instance, what if a user wants to delete his or her info off of Facebook. Today that’s possible”

    LOLWUT? Why did Britain’s Data Commissioner have to step in to slap down Facebook for it’s efforts to prevent users getting their account fully deleted.

    Dave Morin sounds like he’s spreading FUD. There are existing implementations – like the ability to import your contacts into Dopplr from Twitter and from any page with hCards. That works fine, and nobody is bitching about the privacy concerns of this.

    A lot of people are bringing up “policy” reasons why this kind of thing can’t happen. The fact is that they are already happening. I’m sceptical that it’ll be groups like DataPortability.org that’ll push this – it’s more likely it’ll be hackers working together in an ad-hoc way will solve the problems. Then the vendors will jump in front of the parade and start preaching openness when it becomes inevitable.

  2. “For instance, what if a user wants to delete his or her info off of Facebook. Today that’s possible”

    LOLWUT? Why did Britain’s Data Commissioner have to step in to slap down Facebook for it’s efforts to prevent users getting their account fully deleted.

    Dave Morin sounds like he’s spreading FUD. There are existing implementations – like the ability to import your contacts into Dopplr from Twitter and from any page with hCards. That works fine, and nobody is bitching about the privacy concerns of this.

    A lot of people are bringing up “policy” reasons why this kind of thing can’t happen. The fact is that they are already happening. I’m sceptical that it’ll be groups like DataPortability.org that’ll push this – it’s more likely it’ll be hackers working together in an ad-hoc way will solve the problems. Then the vendors will jump in front of the parade and start preaching openness when it becomes inevitable.

  3. I think we’ll experience some small steps but the scenario you’re drawing (and that we’re all hoping for) will indeed take time. Anyway, it’s good to see that the big players are actually working on it. That’s a big thumbs up.

  4. I think we’ll experience some small steps but the scenario you’re drawing (and that we’re all hoping for) will indeed take time. Anyway, it’s good to see that the big players are actually working on it. That’s a big thumbs up.

  5. Excellent and Insightful article. This is an issue that will not go away in a short time. It requires a level of co-operation between the players that is unprecedented.

    In the business world you’d expect it to be a relatively straightforward task to decide on the ‘standard schema’ for a customer record to enable easy data interchange between systems (a long promised but not yet delivered facility) – but this has yet to happen and that is not on the scale of complexity that you are talking about here …

  6. Excellent and Insightful article. This is an issue that will not go away in a short time. It requires a level of co-operation between the players that is unprecedented.

    In the business world you’d expect it to be a relatively straightforward task to decide on the ‘standard schema’ for a customer record to enable easy data interchange between systems (a long promised but not yet delivered facility) – but this has yet to happen and that is not on the scale of complexity that you are talking about here …

  7. just have microsoft buy everything. then itll work together :D

    (this is acutally why i love it that facebook and ms are getting cuddly. i use live services extensivly, and facebook too. they are together like 80% of my online social thingies)

  8. just have microsoft buy everything. then itll work together :D

    (this is acutally why i love it that facebook and ms are getting cuddly. i use live services extensivly, and facebook too. they are together like 80% of my online social thingies)

  9. We really need to push for an Open spec on social markup. A downloadable file (like OPML for feeds) marked up with microformats containing your social profile information… all you should have to do is import this file containing all info… and sure, Network B might have some additional info you can add there, but they should turn around and allow you to re-export your data updated with this info. An automatic dissemination is brutal.. like peoples complaints about socialthing (when argued against friendfeed)… automatic can be a burden.. i don’t keep the same contacts everywhere… you are a special case of person because you are followed by/follow most known species of organism on just about every social network… even the ones that aren’t even out. lol.

  10. We really need to push for an Open spec on social markup. A downloadable file (like OPML for feeds) marked up with microformats containing your social profile information… all you should have to do is import this file containing all info… and sure, Network B might have some additional info you can add there, but they should turn around and allow you to re-export your data updated with this info. An automatic dissemination is brutal.. like peoples complaints about socialthing (when argued against friendfeed)… automatic can be a burden.. i don’t keep the same contacts everywhere… you are a special case of person because you are followed by/follow most known species of organism on just about every social network… even the ones that aren’t even out. lol.

  11. I was just thinking that this was a real issue but hadn’t figured on a solution. Not so much for my email as I control my domain name but because I have friends, associates and the like who change their contact information when they change jobs or rebrand etc.

    I thought Plaxo was supposed to lead things off into the right direction but shifted focus to being a pseudo LinkedIn. I think that this will be much easier than the supposed Local Number Portability that was supposed to allow customers keep their phone number as they switched telcos in North America.

    For me, too I have dozens of logins, usernames, nicks because of formatting, preference of nicks/handles over emails and such so how are some people to know it is me. Avatars help but have no ID or sniff test for people to say, “That’s him!” or say, “This person is an imposter.”.

    I’d be interested to see if a solution for cross application interaction happens.

  12. I was just thinking that this was a real issue but hadn’t figured on a solution. Not so much for my email as I control my domain name but because I have friends, associates and the like who change their contact information when they change jobs or rebrand etc.

    I thought Plaxo was supposed to lead things off into the right direction but shifted focus to being a pseudo LinkedIn. I think that this will be much easier than the supposed Local Number Portability that was supposed to allow customers keep their phone number as they switched telcos in North America.

    For me, too I have dozens of logins, usernames, nicks because of formatting, preference of nicks/handles over emails and such so how are some people to know it is me. Avatars help but have no ID or sniff test for people to say, “That’s him!” or say, “This person is an imposter.”.

    I’d be interested to see if a solution for cross application interaction happens.

  13. I’m totally lost… I mean totally lost.

    Robert, in your post you have defined what you think “Data Portability” should be. However, I think the industry has to define the requirements for what is “Data Portability” first and then deal with the politics of implementation.

    To do anything of substance you have to have common requirements so everyone knows what’s going on and can march to the same beat.

    To answer your question, you could have some type of portability before the end of the year, depends on the requirements.

  14. I’m totally lost… I mean totally lost.

    Robert, in your post you have defined what you think “Data Portability” should be. However, I think the industry has to define the requirements for what is “Data Portability” first and then deal with the politics of implementation.

    To do anything of substance you have to have common requirements so everyone knows what’s going on and can march to the same beat.

    To answer your question, you could have some type of portability before the end of the year, depends on the requirements.

  15. You should listen to the DataPortability.org podcasts, too, for more insight into why it’s going to take so long for “social data portability” to happen without a few large vendors weighing in and knocking heads.

    My take: unless I can control who can see what, I’m not in favor of “social data portability.”

  16. You should listen to the DataPortability.org podcasts, too, for more insight into why it’s going to take so long for “social data portability” to happen without a few large vendors weighing in and knocking heads.

    My take: unless I can control who can see what, I’m not in favor of “social data portability.”

  17. Well, I am all pro data-portability..

    But if you look at LinkedIn, they have build their own Twitter for their system, instead of just using Twitter…those are the things my mind just cant seem to get..

  18. Well, I am all pro data-portability..

    But if you look at LinkedIn, they have build their own Twitter for their system, instead of just using Twitter…those are the things my mind just cant seem to get..

  19. The problem with OpenSocial is that it solves a developer problem, not a user problem. Developers want to put their gadgets/widgets/mini-apps in other social networks, but as a user, do you really want more junk to contend with?

  20. The problem with OpenSocial is that it solves a developer problem, not a user problem. Developers want to put their gadgets/widgets/mini-apps in other social networks, but as a user, do you really want more junk to contend with?

  21. The answer to all of your questions is standards.

    The Google Social Graph API is this.

    http://socialgraph-resources.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/samples/findyours.html?q=http%3A%2F%2Fscobleizer.com

    As soon as we can define standards for friends then I think the need for a social network has gone. And it has already been defined. The only way that data can become portable between social networks is if it doesn’t matter which social network you are on you can still communicate with each other. i.e. Like EMAIL. But obviously with more standards it can be richer.

    I wrote a post about this a while ago:

    “If you could move your information about friends etc (your social graph) right now would you? Where would you move it to? Moving your social graph is not going to be useful unless all of your friends (or at least some of them) move too. In this way making data portable is not really going to change anything about the lock in with social networks. People are going to stay where people they know are. Similar arguments debunk the significance of Open Social. People don’t switch networks for applications or widgets. They move because of their friends.

    What is needed instead is to make the rich experience of a social network standardised. I think Google knows this. The real future is ONE social network for everyone. I see social networking as an extension to email. From Gmail I can email people on Hotmail and they can email me back. There is a communication standard there. So what we need is a standard account type (that is OpenID) and then standards for feeds of activity (that’s RSS), and standards for everything else you do on a social network. Once the social networking “scape” is fully open in this way people can use their own bit of the network (essentially their network provider) like Facebook, or Google, or Bebo, or whatever. And it might have slightly different features just like the way that Gmail has different features to Hotmail but it would have all been the same network. So I can switch from Google to Facebook and I’ll see a different interface but can browse my friends on whichever network provider they’ve chosen.

    OpenID and a standard social graph is the key. As far as I can tell there is no benefit in the “half-way” solution where I can move my data from Facebook to Orkut. My friends will still be on Facebook. Fingers crossed this can go all the way.”

  22. The answer to all of your questions is standards.

    The Google Social Graph API is this.

    http://socialgraph-resources.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/samples/findyours.html?q=http%3A%2F%2Fscobleizer.com

    As soon as we can define standards for friends then I think the need for a social network has gone. And it has already been defined. The only way that data can become portable between social networks is if it doesn’t matter which social network you are on you can still communicate with each other. i.e. Like EMAIL. But obviously with more standards it can be richer.

    I wrote a post about this a while ago:

    “If you could move your information about friends etc (your social graph) right now would you? Where would you move it to? Moving your social graph is not going to be useful unless all of your friends (or at least some of them) move too. In this way making data portable is not really going to change anything about the lock in with social networks. People are going to stay where people they know are. Similar arguments debunk the significance of Open Social. People don’t switch networks for applications or widgets. They move because of their friends.

    What is needed instead is to make the rich experience of a social network standardised. I think Google knows this. The real future is ONE social network for everyone. I see social networking as an extension to email. From Gmail I can email people on Hotmail and they can email me back. There is a communication standard there. So what we need is a standard account type (that is OpenID) and then standards for feeds of activity (that’s RSS), and standards for everything else you do on a social network. Once the social networking “scape” is fully open in this way people can use their own bit of the network (essentially their network provider) like Facebook, or Google, or Bebo, or whatever. And it might have slightly different features just like the way that Gmail has different features to Hotmail but it would have all been the same network. So I can switch from Google to Facebook and I’ll see a different interface but can browse my friends on whichever network provider they’ve chosen.

    OpenID and a standard social graph is the key. As far as I can tell there is no benefit in the “half-way” solution where I can move my data from Facebook to Orkut. My friends will still be on Facebook. Fingers crossed this can go all the way.”

  23. I’m glad you got to talk to Dave and he injected some perspective into your “Data Portability” invectives.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand where how you’d come to the conclusion that sharing content or making it portable (i.e. photos, videos, blog posts) is the hard part compared to sharing identities across different services. Don’t we already have the former happening today?

  24. I’m glad you got to talk to Dave and he injected some perspective into your “Data Portability” invectives.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand where how you’d come to the conclusion that sharing content or making it portable (i.e. photos, videos, blog posts) is the hard part compared to sharing identities across different services. Don’t we already have the former happening today?

  25. The reason why it’ll take so long to do this simply is that all those social network companies are scared to loose their users once they can move data with a click. There are lots of redundant services (and atm more and more seem to become available) and some will simply become obsolete once you can have all the apps AND your data on any network. But I believe social networks might become the next email. Everybody uses it but you can’t make much money out of it (not my idea, I think I read it somewhere, maybe techcrunch). But evidently all email providers offer more or less the same features.

    Most of the scenarios you mention involve some kind of decision a service provider can’t make on his own (mostly because it can’t be automated or generalized). So what? Let the user decide which information to share with whom, when and for how long. We’re the only ones really responsible for our data. Why don’t they let us be?

  26. The reason why it’ll take so long to do this simply is that all those social network companies are scared to loose their users once they can move data with a click. There are lots of redundant services (and atm more and more seem to become available) and some will simply become obsolete once you can have all the apps AND your data on any network. But I believe social networks might become the next email. Everybody uses it but you can’t make much money out of it (not my idea, I think I read it somewhere, maybe techcrunch). But evidently all email providers offer more or less the same features.

    Most of the scenarios you mention involve some kind of decision a service provider can’t make on his own (mostly because it can’t be automated or generalized). So what? Let the user decide which information to share with whom, when and for how long. We’re the only ones really responsible for our data. Why don’t they let us be?

  27. Hi Robert,
    You have raised a very valid point and I had twittered on that in reply. One thing that also comes into my mind is that in an open dataportable environment how will these applications trust each other. What is the qualifying parameter and checks that an application needs to do before talking to another application. Are systems like OpenID solution to that. In the portal environment ‘Trust’ will be the most critical factor and there needs to a common an open qualifier for ‘Trust’ too.

    Thanks
    Santosh Maharshi

  28. Hi Robert,
    You have raised a very valid point and I had twittered on that in reply. One thing that also comes into my mind is that in an open dataportable environment how will these applications trust each other. What is the qualifying parameter and checks that an application needs to do before talking to another application. Are systems like OpenID solution to that. In the portal environment ‘Trust’ will be the most critical factor and there needs to a common an open qualifier for ‘Trust’ too.

    Thanks
    Santosh Maharshi

  29. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

    Yes, are lots of big challenges around data portability. However, just because it’s tough to solve the *whole* problem, doesn’t mean it’s not worth solving any part of it.

    Lots of software developers fall into the trap of wanting to design the “big solution” for the “big problem”. However, that’s almost *never* the right answer as far as the end-users of a computer system are concerned.

  30. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

    Yes, are lots of big challenges around data portability. However, just because it’s tough to solve the *whole* problem, doesn’t mean it’s not worth solving any part of it.

    Lots of software developers fall into the trap of wanting to design the “big solution” for the “big problem”. However, that’s almost *never* the right answer as far as the end-users of a computer system are concerned.

  31. great…in addition to the rampant facebook spam i already get, all i need is facebook spam that can trickle into my email inbox for a vague “data portability” cause. i’ve noticed that most people more liberally give away their fb friendship than their email address, which is more highly guarded.

  32. great…in addition to the rampant facebook spam i already get, all i need is facebook spam that can trickle into my email inbox for a vague “data portability” cause. i’ve noticed that most people more liberally give away their fb friendship than their email address, which is more highly guarded.

  33. I really want to see data portability succeed, it’s our main weapon against walled gardens like Facebook. Google is a good example… it’s easy to share or not share info publicly from within its services, and it’s easy to extract my data and take it elsewhere. Sharing has to be under my complete control. I don’t want any site automatically sharing any of my data with any other site. If there aren’t controls to be very specific about what sharing/updating I do and do not want, the default should be no sharing. Privacy always trumps openness.

  34. I really want to see data portability succeed, it’s our main weapon against walled gardens like Facebook. Google is a good example… it’s easy to share or not share info publicly from within its services, and it’s easy to extract my data and take it elsewhere. Sharing has to be under my complete control. I don’t want any site automatically sharing any of my data with any other site. If there aren’t controls to be very specific about what sharing/updating I do and do not want, the default should be no sharing. Privacy always trumps openness.

  35. Uniquely identifying who YOU are is going to be one of the bigger challenges. Username? Uhm no! Email? Well, if you have 4 different ones, that’s a challenge. SS#? If we all got that ID block thing :) Then again, the simple standard is to tell people, “if you want to integrate your networks, you must use the same email address”, and if they don’t, it’s their problem.

  36. Uniquely identifying who YOU are is going to be one of the bigger challenges. Username? Uhm no! Email? Well, if you have 4 different ones, that’s a challenge. SS#? If we all got that ID block thing :) Then again, the simple standard is to tell people, “if you want to integrate your networks, you must use the same email address”, and if they don’t, it’s their problem.

  37. Normal people are, at some point, going to get sick of having to deal with so many social networks. I believe things will converge to a small number of networks. Other systems have gone through similar evolution over the years – remember how many web-email providers there were at one point? We struggled with how we will manage so many email addresses.

    I don’t believe portability can ever be done automatically by the networks. There are just too many use cases and privacy concerns and issues to get this right. IMO, external tools that help export and import data in and out of the networks is the right way. The user controls these tools and decide what and when to do data porting. Automation can be achieved by the user with the right tools. But they dont have to worry about the networks doing anything right or wrong.

  38. Normal people are, at some point, going to get sick of having to deal with so many social networks. I believe things will converge to a small number of networks. Other systems have gone through similar evolution over the years – remember how many web-email providers there were at one point? We struggled with how we will manage so many email addresses.

    I don’t believe portability can ever be done automatically by the networks. There are just too many use cases and privacy concerns and issues to get this right. IMO, external tools that help export and import data in and out of the networks is the right way. The user controls these tools and decide what and when to do data porting. Automation can be achieved by the user with the right tools. But they dont have to worry about the networks doing anything right or wrong.

  39. I guess the question that comes to mind over this exact issue is when does one begin to limit the number of social networks they are a part of? Really the only way to not have to change your email on several sites is to not sign up for so many sites, but in this Web 2.0 world where people jump from service to service as the “next big thing” comes along that concept is made more difficult to actually adhere to.

  40. I guess the question that comes to mind over this exact issue is when does one begin to limit the number of social networks they are a part of? Really the only way to not have to change your email on several sites is to not sign up for so many sites, but in this Web 2.0 world where people jump from service to service as the “next big thing” comes along that concept is made more difficult to actually adhere to.

  41. Data portability…. Yikes.

    Call it “Facilitating transfer of personal information” and you might get a different take on it. You write like it’s all good, but it’s going to mean that more people’s personal data spreads to more and more companies — and not just minor personal data, but your complete social network, likes, dislikes. The marketers are salivating.

  42. Data portability…. Yikes.

    Call it “Facilitating transfer of personal information” and you might get a different take on it. You write like it’s all good, but it’s going to mean that more people’s personal data spreads to more and more companies — and not just minor personal data, but your complete social network, likes, dislikes. The marketers are salivating.

  43. Dumb user here. The big issue here is TRUST. I’m on as many networks as you are, but some of them I just signed up to test, and then rejected. Do I want them to have access to the ones I really use, that have stuff on them like my friends.? And what about the ones that I got put on because they spammed my address book? I don’t want my trusted applications and my “non-trusted” applications mixed.

    Not that I don’t want the “change your address once” convenience, but when it comes with the spamminess of Plaxo, I always wonder if it’s worth it.

  44. Dumb user here. The big issue here is TRUST. I’m on as many networks as you are, but some of them I just signed up to test, and then rejected. Do I want them to have access to the ones I really use, that have stuff on them like my friends.? And what about the ones that I got put on because they spammed my address book? I don’t want my trusted applications and my “non-trusted” applications mixed.

    Not that I don’t want the “change your address once” convenience, but when it comes with the spamminess of Plaxo, I always wonder if it’s worth it.

  45. There are many reasons why this will be hard. One right now is that every major system wants to invent it’s own API, Contact Schema and Authentication. It’s great that they want to do import/export but can we all please do it the same way? Oh. Wait a minute. We’re talking about billion dollar companies here. :(

    I think these issues are going to get solved from both ends. Top down defacto standards and bottom up innovation and evangelism. Let’s hope they meet in the middle. The more people like Robert demand these sorts of functions and the more groups like DataPortability spread the word, the more likely it is to get done.

    And as someone up there said, don’t avoid the easy stuff because the big picture looks impossibly hard or some of the issues look intractable.

  46. There are many reasons why this will be hard. One right now is that every major system wants to invent it’s own API, Contact Schema and Authentication. It’s great that they want to do import/export but can we all please do it the same way? Oh. Wait a minute. We’re talking about billion dollar companies here. :(

    I think these issues are going to get solved from both ends. Top down defacto standards and bottom up innovation and evangelism. Let’s hope they meet in the middle. The more people like Robert demand these sorts of functions and the more groups like DataPortability spread the word, the more likely it is to get done.

    And as someone up there said, don’t avoid the easy stuff because the big picture looks impossibly hard or some of the issues look intractable.

  47. I think Sam’s comment above is closest to the solution, although I don’t believe in having ONE Social Network, but rather, ONE social network API. Companies offering OpenID are well positioned in this regard since they could simply add the necessary social network API’s to their set of services. This way, when you sign up on a website you can simply point to your OpenID provider who will provide, and more importantly, enforce all of your social network rules. With this said, there’s little to stop Facebook, MySpace, etc from supporting this and becoming an OpenID+Social_API provider.

    All of the use cases Robert pointed out seem to be solved by this sort of solution.

    Oh, and for the totally paranoid, I’d even suggest having a browser plug-in that maintained your social networking rules.

  48. I think Sam’s comment above is closest to the solution, although I don’t believe in having ONE Social Network, but rather, ONE social network API. Companies offering OpenID are well positioned in this regard since they could simply add the necessary social network API’s to their set of services. This way, when you sign up on a website you can simply point to your OpenID provider who will provide, and more importantly, enforce all of your social network rules. With this said, there’s little to stop Facebook, MySpace, etc from supporting this and becoming an OpenID+Social_API provider.

    All of the use cases Robert pointed out seem to be solved by this sort of solution.

    Oh, and for the totally paranoid, I’d even suggest having a browser plug-in that maintained your social networking rules.

  49. BTW, Robert, where’s your YASN-Roll? The list of links to your profile on all those systems. The one that’s marked up with microformats so that things like the Socialgraph API can find it. And that can be used as the basis to find all your friends when you join the next one. And is linked to your OpenID so that new system can find it.

  50. BTW, Robert, where’s your YASN-Roll? The list of links to your profile on all those systems. The one that’s marked up with microformats so that things like the Socialgraph API can find it. And that can be used as the basis to find all your friends when you join the next one. And is linked to your OpenID so that new system can find it.

  51. The problem is that Facebook has ZERO incentive to open up their walled garden. Google generates value by munching data (both traffic and user interactions) from Gmail, GoogleAnalytics, Feedburner, ads, and the open internet. There’s no upside for Facebook in giving up the one thing Google wants.

    I’m a fan of openness, but in a world where data is a commodity and Google is the 800lb gorilla, it’s a good value proposition to differentiate yourself by building fences. It’s like commodity PCs powered by Microsoft vs. Apple’s walled garden.

  52. The problem is that Facebook has ZERO incentive to open up their walled garden. Google generates value by munching data (both traffic and user interactions) from Gmail, GoogleAnalytics, Feedburner, ads, and the open internet. There’s no upside for Facebook in giving up the one thing Google wants.

    I’m a fan of openness, but in a world where data is a commodity and Google is the 800lb gorilla, it’s a good value proposition to differentiate yourself by building fences. It’s like commodity PCs powered by Microsoft vs. Apple’s walled garden.

  53. What is data portability? And what is a social network?

    I take social networks, at their core, to mean three related functions:
    1. Some way of maintaining state about yourself: contact info, demographics, etc.
    2. Some way to identify relationships – who and what kind of relationship.
    3. Some way to control permissions of those related to you and their access to your state.

    I see data portability as defining a standard set of policies governing the sharing and unsharing of these three things.

    Done correctly, it means the end of social networks. The standard that it defines by default makes one gigantic social network, one that correctly mirrors human relationships off-line!

    This is similar to Sam’s thoughts above.

    Vendor-led efforts are dead in the water. If data portability is accomplished, there are no social networks left. It becomes a public utility that people and businesses use, one that generates vast amounts of economic utility, but one that no private party is able to convert into fiscal value.

    I second John’s concerns, but they aren’t a problem. This seems like an OO-purist’s obsession: correctly establishing identity. If I want to lead a double-life, I can lead a double life. And if I bisect the AllThing’s social graph with two nodes that represent me, oh well. I have that right.

    Indeed, the idea of a universal social graph is flawed. It only benefits companies. If privacy is respected, then we each get a different social graph. Ralph may not want me to know that he knows Wanda, or in what capacity, so on my social graph, that link will be missing.

  54. What is data portability? And what is a social network?

    I take social networks, at their core, to mean three related functions:
    1. Some way of maintaining state about yourself: contact info, demographics, etc.
    2. Some way to identify relationships – who and what kind of relationship.
    3. Some way to control permissions of those related to you and their access to your state.

    I see data portability as defining a standard set of policies governing the sharing and unsharing of these three things.

    Done correctly, it means the end of social networks. The standard that it defines by default makes one gigantic social network, one that correctly mirrors human relationships off-line!

    This is similar to Sam’s thoughts above.

    Vendor-led efforts are dead in the water. If data portability is accomplished, there are no social networks left. It becomes a public utility that people and businesses use, one that generates vast amounts of economic utility, but one that no private party is able to convert into fiscal value.

    I second John’s concerns, but they aren’t a problem. This seems like an OO-purist’s obsession: correctly establishing identity. If I want to lead a double-life, I can lead a double life. And if I bisect the AllThing’s social graph with two nodes that represent me, oh well. I have that right.

    Indeed, the idea of a universal social graph is flawed. It only benefits companies. If privacy is respected, then we each get a different social graph. Ralph may not want me to know that he knows Wanda, or in what capacity, so on my social graph, that link will be missing.

  55. What happens if these people actual do trust each other and allow you to port data. Wouldn’t that result in Big brother watching you? If the FBI wanted to spy on you, all they would need is one e-mail address and then all these networks combined will tell them where you are, were, will be and track you/spy on you 24×7. Would you want to give up your freedom in such an easy way? How can you prevent it from happening? There is nothing which can protect you at that point. No law will protect anyone from snooping, because this will all be public information at that point. And what about stalkers?

  56. What happens if these people actual do trust each other and allow you to port data. Wouldn’t that result in Big brother watching you? If the FBI wanted to spy on you, all they would need is one e-mail address and then all these networks combined will tell them where you are, were, will be and track you/spy on you 24×7. Would you want to give up your freedom in such an easy way? How can you prevent it from happening? There is nothing which can protect you at that point. No law will protect anyone from snooping, because this will all be public information at that point. And what about stalkers?

  57. Well, a not so obvious solution to many of these problems would be to leave all data where it belongs. With the user. No need for data portability then. Only a simple agreement on how a user would identify himself to a service that he wishes to make use of (even temporary). If you put the user in charge and let him decide which info he shares with others and which not, it would put most current web 2.0 walled garden social graph data hogging services out of business. We would get a user centric web. A web where you are in charge of your own interactions with others. And social networks would simply become means to interact. I could use any means I want as I have my friends with me.

  58. Well, a not so obvious solution to many of these problems would be to leave all data where it belongs. With the user. No need for data portability then. Only a simple agreement on how a user would identify himself to a service that he wishes to make use of (even temporary). If you put the user in charge and let him decide which info he shares with others and which not, it would put most current web 2.0 walled garden social graph data hogging services out of business. We would get a user centric web. A web where you are in charge of your own interactions with others. And social networks would simply become means to interact. I could use any means I want as I have my friends with me.

  59. Yes, these are all hard problems and maybe not all of them can be addresses in a matter that everybody is happy.

    So my vision is also to have one social network which is the internet but not as one master server for everybody but following the OpenID model (I think this goes into the direction Sam was thinking). So this can be easily used to sync data. If you change your email address 3 times then the last one should be valid unless you state that you want to use another profile (with a different address) on some social application (if we have one social network the existing ones might then be called social applications making use of that network).

    So everybody can actually choose their master server of choice (some might trust Facebook, some might trust their bank, some their own hosted thing) and you give permissions around.

    Of course this is not fully thought through but it might be one idea to think further.

    The thing is though that “Data Portability” can be sort of everything or nothing depending on who you ask. This email problem is more a problem of sync and sync is probably one of the most difficult to solve. I would already be happy if we would solve the export issue, defining technical standards and policy for exporting data (and policies which you are allowed to do with it).

    I summarized some ideas of how to partition the problem space here: http://mrtopf.de/blog/web20/what-is-data-portability/ and during the last DP meeting a similar idea seems to have been discussed in the form of DP labs. I think the main problem which stops the actual work in DP right now is really not having a defined scope (maybe narrow enough to being able to solve it).

    Another thing I would like though would be that Dave Morin joins the conversation on one of the Data Portability Groups or even lists these use cases in the wiki so people can think about it. I mean FB joined this project so it would be good to know what the problems they are facing are. Both on the user and on the business side.

  60. Yes, these are all hard problems and maybe not all of them can be addresses in a matter that everybody is happy.

    So my vision is also to have one social network which is the internet but not as one master server for everybody but following the OpenID model (I think this goes into the direction Sam was thinking). So this can be easily used to sync data. If you change your email address 3 times then the last one should be valid unless you state that you want to use another profile (with a different address) on some social application (if we have one social network the existing ones might then be called social applications making use of that network).

    So everybody can actually choose their master server of choice (some might trust Facebook, some might trust their bank, some their own hosted thing) and you give permissions around.

    Of course this is not fully thought through but it might be one idea to think further.

    The thing is though that “Data Portability” can be sort of everything or nothing depending on who you ask. This email problem is more a problem of sync and sync is probably one of the most difficult to solve. I would already be happy if we would solve the export issue, defining technical standards and policy for exporting data (and policies which you are allowed to do with it).

    I summarized some ideas of how to partition the problem space here: http://mrtopf.de/blog/web20/what-is-data-portability/ and during the last DP meeting a similar idea seems to have been discussed in the form of DP labs. I think the main problem which stops the actual work in DP right now is really not having a defined scope (maybe narrow enough to being able to solve it).

    Another thing I would like though would be that Dave Morin joins the conversation on one of the Data Portability Groups or even lists these use cases in the wiki so people can think about it. I mean FB joined this project so it would be good to know what the problems they are facing are. Both on the user and on the business side.

  61. I envision data “portability” as just that, your info moving where you do. In the browser. Think a robots.txt file meets cookies where I decide who gets what level of information and how the relationships are mapped.

    I simple “handshake” with a new website would allow them to see where else I share similar info, who I relate to and even (cringe) serve me relevant ads.
    This could be expanded to all levels of customization or preferences for web use.

    One config file to rule them all?

  62. I envision data “portability” as just that, your info moving where you do. In the browser. Think a robots.txt file meets cookies where I decide who gets what level of information and how the relationships are mapped.

    I simple “handshake” with a new website would allow them to see where else I share similar info, who I relate to and even (cringe) serve me relevant ads.
    This could be expanded to all levels of customization or preferences for web use.

    One config file to rule them all?

  63. @Christian – agreed, that’s why the DP discussion exists – to discuss these tricky use cases and solve them.

    Facebook is not unique in having these problems, and the answers *are* being discussed – good answers.

  64. @Christian – agreed, that’s why the DP discussion exists – to discuss these tricky use cases and solve them.

    Facebook is not unique in having these problems, and the answers *are* being discussed – good answers.

  65. I don’t know if the guy you talked to at Facebook is a real technical guy or just someone with a fancy title. Two things stood out for me in your message and in his response:

    I think Open ID is an important part of this. Open ID does not require every product I use to keep a copy of my ID and password, but whatever system I use as my authentication server must have a high degree of uptime and responsiveness to validate me to all the others.

    Why can’t my address list be housed on Google if I use that most for e-mail, or Yahoo if I use that, and available in real time to any service I’ve authorized to use it? You seem to be thinking in terms of every service copying all of my accumulated data when I first sign up. I’m quite sure the Facebook guy was thrilled to tell you how impractical that would be. I can just imagine him saying that RSS was impossible as it would require every player to maintain an entire copy of the Internet! Once people join these walled garden companies they can’t think straight any more (if they ever could).

    Oh a third thing… for data that DOES need to be copied from one service to another, all you need is a standard for defining a “delete transaction” or some more generic transaction mechanism to keep them all in sync without constant copying. And in the case that someone asked above of you changing your e-mail address to different things on several services (assuming you e-mail address was being used as the common linkage) then you would simply be breaking the connection at that point. I don’t see anything wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do. Maybe there could (and should) even be a way of linking two pre-existing accounts when new services hop on the bandwagon. I would hope so.

    Facebook is dragging its heels for purely non-technical reasons, and they make themselves look progressively sillier with every new attempt.

  66. I don’t know if the guy you talked to at Facebook is a real technical guy or just someone with a fancy title. Two things stood out for me in your message and in his response:

    I think Open ID is an important part of this. Open ID does not require every product I use to keep a copy of my ID and password, but whatever system I use as my authentication server must have a high degree of uptime and responsiveness to validate me to all the others.

    Why can’t my address list be housed on Google if I use that most for e-mail, or Yahoo if I use that, and available in real time to any service I’ve authorized to use it? You seem to be thinking in terms of every service copying all of my accumulated data when I first sign up. I’m quite sure the Facebook guy was thrilled to tell you how impractical that would be. I can just imagine him saying that RSS was impossible as it would require every player to maintain an entire copy of the Internet! Once people join these walled garden companies they can’t think straight any more (if they ever could).

    Oh a third thing… for data that DOES need to be copied from one service to another, all you need is a standard for defining a “delete transaction” or some more generic transaction mechanism to keep them all in sync without constant copying. And in the case that someone asked above of you changing your e-mail address to different things on several services (assuming you e-mail address was being used as the common linkage) then you would simply be breaking the connection at that point. I don’t see anything wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do. Maybe there could (and should) even be a way of linking two pre-existing accounts when new services hop on the bandwagon. I would hope so.

    Facebook is dragging its heels for purely non-technical reasons, and they make themselves look progressively sillier with every new attempt.

  67. I’m surprised that the use case quoted were seen as something not thought about.

    The data portability working group have been looking at examples like that since the get go.

    I touched on data ownership in http://shaidorsai.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/trust-openid-vrm-data-portablity-and-how-does-it-hang-together/
    and said then that it was something we needed to get under. JP’s talked about several times, refered to in that post.

    Worried about your content? Stick a creative commons licence on it, if you want attribution and so on. That’ll make your intentions *clear*. It won’t stop thieves, but at least your wishes are explicit.

  68. I’m surprised that the use case quoted were seen as something not thought about.

    The data portability working group have been looking at examples like that since the get go.

    I touched on data ownership in http://shaidorsai.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/trust-openid-vrm-data-portablity-and-how-does-it-hang-together/
    and said then that it was something we needed to get under. JP’s talked about several times, refered to in that post.

    Worried about your content? Stick a creative commons licence on it, if you want attribution and so on. That’ll make your intentions *clear*. It won’t stop thieves, but at least your wishes are explicit.

  69. [10:33:03] John Breslin says: despite all the difficult scenarios (mainly in terms of ownership), you should still be able to bring your profile and your content with you
    [10:33:25] John Breslin says: even without comments, tags, etc. (if they “belong” to other people)
    [10:34:06] John Breslin says: the stuff “belonging” to others could still be ported depending on a profile option for those users on the old/new sites
    [10:34:40] John Breslin says: “Yes, let my friends port objects that connect us together from this site.” / “Yes, let my friends port objects that connect us together to this site.”

  70. [10:33:03] John Breslin says: despite all the difficult scenarios (mainly in terms of ownership), you should still be able to bring your profile and your content with you
    [10:33:25] John Breslin says: even without comments, tags, etc. (if they “belong” to other people)
    [10:34:06] John Breslin says: the stuff “belonging” to others could still be ported depending on a profile option for those users on the old/new sites
    [10:34:40] John Breslin says: “Yes, let my friends port objects that connect us together from this site.” / “Yes, let my friends port objects that connect us together to this site.”

  71. Tom says in the first comment: “…vendors will jump in front of the parade and start preaching openness when it becomes inevitable” – it has and they are.

    The actions are slower than the word, but still, one bite at a time.

    My biggest worry in all of this is that we’ll wind up with poorly thought-out hacks solving the immediate problem, without considering the bigger picture – the more general Web of Data (where the standards are already in place, the Semantic Web stack).

    Fortunately the DataPortability folks seem relatively sane :-)

  72. Tom says in the first comment: “…vendors will jump in front of the parade and start preaching openness when it becomes inevitable” – it has and they are.

    The actions are slower than the word, but still, one bite at a time.

    My biggest worry in all of this is that we’ll wind up with poorly thought-out hacks solving the immediate problem, without considering the bigger picture – the more general Web of Data (where the standards are already in place, the Semantic Web stack).

    Fortunately the DataPortability folks seem relatively sane :-)

  73. What ever happened to the discussion about multiple encrypted databases that contain our information, which is cached for a certain period of time. Commenter 41 is talking about that. Sort of like DNS root servers and TTL settings. Bidirectional propagation is tough, so push everything back to the mothership, then push it out to other services. Dealing with diffs between what you want displayed on various services is going to be tough.

    Perhaps the signup process will be more along the lines of “put checks next to all the data you want to be made public.”

  74. What ever happened to the discussion about multiple encrypted databases that contain our information, which is cached for a certain period of time. Commenter 41 is talking about that. Sort of like DNS root servers and TTL settings. Bidirectional propagation is tough, so push everything back to the mothership, then push it out to other services. Dealing with diffs between what you want displayed on various services is going to be tough.

    Perhaps the signup process will be more along the lines of “put checks next to all the data you want to be made public.”

  75. There are so many open questions (as described), and we are “just” talking about DATA portability. What if meaning comes into play (portable ontologies)? One question is “what exists?”, another is “what is/shall be transfered?”. Things are not getting easier…

  76. There are so many open questions (as described), and we are “just” talking about DATA portability. What if meaning comes into play (portable ontologies)? One question is “what exists?”, another is “what is/shall be transfered?”. Things are not getting easier…

  77. I’m glad the Facebook guy was able to cramp your data portability extremism a little bit into some pragmatic considerations that aren’t just other people’s privacy, which is something you may not care about, but raise just data *management* issues, like the problem of software you can’t leave because it keeps spraying your info everywhere.

    What I dislike about this discussion is the horrid artificial problem created out of thin air, which then is mounted as a thing needing a “solution”.

    And that problem is an imaginary one, where tekkies who don’t like typing their handles and passwords 10 times over are inconvenienced.

    It’s simply hard to see that as a problem. Who cares?! You can solve the problem by making your handle and password the same everywhere, which shouldn’t matter on these dollar-a-dozen social networks that come and go, and aren’t involving monetary transactions but only chat.

    Surely some of them will die off and only a few stronger ones will survive and/or be bought out. So why fuss about your inability to port your friendz from Wikitikiwoo.com to Rinkydinki.net when both of them will become extinct by next year?

    I also don’t like the idea of having some social-mark-up that might inevitably enable some entity to have all your social data centralized somewhere under the guise of open-source and under the guise of you being to manage and apportion it out to this or that social network.

    At some point, the places that exist on the Internet that you will be “on” aren’t going to be the places anymore, such that you have to sign up for them.

    The place you will be “on” will be your phone, with its unique number and password. Obviously you’ll control what you want to be on that mobile phone yourself, linked to that number and password. You won’t need any hand-holding from any opensourced wikitarian to do this.

    And that phone will then access all the stuff out there and maybe not even bother to log in anymore — why should it? it won’t need to. The websites will be the connecting spaces between phones.

    Yes, there will be multiple phone services that will not have interoperability. Good!

  78. I’m glad the Facebook guy was able to cramp your data portability extremism a little bit into some pragmatic considerations that aren’t just other people’s privacy, which is something you may not care about, but raise just data *management* issues, like the problem of software you can’t leave because it keeps spraying your info everywhere.

    What I dislike about this discussion is the horrid artificial problem created out of thin air, which then is mounted as a thing needing a “solution”.

    And that problem is an imaginary one, where tekkies who don’t like typing their handles and passwords 10 times over are inconvenienced.

    It’s simply hard to see that as a problem. Who cares?! You can solve the problem by making your handle and password the same everywhere, which shouldn’t matter on these dollar-a-dozen social networks that come and go, and aren’t involving monetary transactions but only chat.

    Surely some of them will die off and only a few stronger ones will survive and/or be bought out. So why fuss about your inability to port your friendz from Wikitikiwoo.com to Rinkydinki.net when both of them will become extinct by next year?

    I also don’t like the idea of having some social-mark-up that might inevitably enable some entity to have all your social data centralized somewhere under the guise of open-source and under the guise of you being to manage and apportion it out to this or that social network.

    At some point, the places that exist on the Internet that you will be “on” aren’t going to be the places anymore, such that you have to sign up for them.

    The place you will be “on” will be your phone, with its unique number and password. Obviously you’ll control what you want to be on that mobile phone yourself, linked to that number and password. You won’t need any hand-holding from any opensourced wikitarian to do this.

    And that phone will then access all the stuff out there and maybe not even bother to log in anymore — why should it? it won’t need to. The websites will be the connecting spaces between phones.

    Yes, there will be multiple phone services that will not have interoperability. Good!

  79. Robert, I think your point #3 is excellent, and is actually something that we’ve been working on for a long time here at Socialthing! I’d love to get a conversation going with you to talk about what you would specifically like to see.

    If you can, email me at matt at socialthing dot com…

  80. Robert, I think your point #3 is excellent, and is actually something that we’ve been working on for a long time here at Socialthing! I’d love to get a conversation going with you to talk about what you would specifically like to see.

    If you can, email me at matt at socialthing dot com…

  81. Robert,

    Facebook has officially given the finger on Data Portabilty.

    I’ve been emailing their corporate communications coordinator back and forth asking why/when/how the “export to CSV” feature was deleted. I asked if there was someone with institutional knowledge and expertise on the history of the system to know, and was told that there isn’t such a person.

    *cough*bullshit*cough*

    Isn’t it just easier to tell the truth?

  82. Robert,

    Facebook has officially given the finger on Data Portabilty.

    I’ve been emailing their corporate communications coordinator back and forth asking why/when/how the “export to CSV” feature was deleted. I asked if there was someone with institutional knowledge and expertise on the history of the system to know, and was told that there isn’t such a person.

    *cough*bullshit*cough*

    Isn’t it just easier to tell the truth?

  83. DataPortability.org won’t work because they aren’t solving the biggest problem — and probably can’t. Just look at their FAQ – it breaks the problem into vendors, consumers, and standards and technology. They’re skirting around the real problem, which is lack of a consistent data model. Absent that, data portability inevitably encounters impedence mismatches at every translation point as different sites try to use the data for different purposes.

    Look at a really core example: person. If you look in a law book, the flesh and blood you will find that there are different concepts of person. You as a reader of this blog are a natural person or, at least for our purposes. A “legal person” can also be, for example, a corporation, a trustee, a partnership, etc.. So, a single natural person can have a wide variety of relationships and types of relationships with any number of legal persons. In fact, persons in general can have a wide variety of relationships with other persons; natural persons are just a special case. Data portability has to consider:

    * Relationships between people and other people (natural or otherwise).
    * Trust relationships between people.
    * Transitivity of those relationships.

    Now add back the reality of an online identity. Identity is not a person. It’s the handle to interact with a system. Data portability is based on the idea that if “you” just had a portable identity, problems would be solved. The misguided assumption is that multiple identities are just an artifact of using computers, and that it’s a problem that goes away in the real world. It doesn’t. Identity is just a handle that ties some identifier such as “robertscoble” to some person, with some degree of confidence. So now the question is which person should it tie to? Robert Scoble? Scobleizer? Is Scobleizer more useful as an identity or as a “person” in it’s own right? What relationship does either of those “people” have to the real Rober Scoble? Do you really want those tied to the same person as your birth certificate, passport and IRS records? Would you want that ability if, for example, somebody started publishing as “Scobleizer” on some other blog? If not, how could any of those identities legitimately be called yours? The boundary between you and your online presence is fuzzy. That adds to the data portability problem:

    * Relationships between authentication techniques (passwords, etc.) and identities.
    * Confidence in those relationships.
    * Transitivity of the confidence across systems that are themselves authenticated to varying degrees of confidence.
    * Relationships between identities and people.
    * Trust between people and the sites that use the identities.

    Whatever movement we get this year will have to be very careful about which part of the problem they try to solve. OpenId has done a really good job of making clear what pieces it solves and which it doesn’t. It doesn’t solve a lot of things, but at least acknowledges as much. I’m not so sure that DataPortability.org has yet established exactly where their boundaries are and should be.

  84. DataPortability.org won’t work because they aren’t solving the biggest problem — and probably can’t. Just look at their FAQ – it breaks the problem into vendors, consumers, and standards and technology. They’re skirting around the real problem, which is lack of a consistent data model. Absent that, data portability inevitably encounters impedence mismatches at every translation point as different sites try to use the data for different purposes.

    Look at a really core example: person. If you look in a law book, the flesh and blood you will find that there are different concepts of person. You as a reader of this blog are a natural person or, at least for our purposes. A “legal person” can also be, for example, a corporation, a trustee, a partnership, etc.. So, a single natural person can have a wide variety of relationships and types of relationships with any number of legal persons. In fact, persons in general can have a wide variety of relationships with other persons; natural persons are just a special case. Data portability has to consider:

    * Relationships between people and other people (natural or otherwise).
    * Trust relationships between people.
    * Transitivity of those relationships.

    Now add back the reality of an online identity. Identity is not a person. It’s the handle to interact with a system. Data portability is based on the idea that if “you” just had a portable identity, problems would be solved. The misguided assumption is that multiple identities are just an artifact of using computers, and that it’s a problem that goes away in the real world. It doesn’t. Identity is just a handle that ties some identifier such as “robertscoble” to some person, with some degree of confidence. So now the question is which person should it tie to? Robert Scoble? Scobleizer? Is Scobleizer more useful as an identity or as a “person” in it’s own right? What relationship does either of those “people” have to the real Rober Scoble? Do you really want those tied to the same person as your birth certificate, passport and IRS records? Would you want that ability if, for example, somebody started publishing as “Scobleizer” on some other blog? If not, how could any of those identities legitimately be called yours? The boundary between you and your online presence is fuzzy. That adds to the data portability problem:

    * Relationships between authentication techniques (passwords, etc.) and identities.
    * Confidence in those relationships.
    * Transitivity of the confidence across systems that are themselves authenticated to varying degrees of confidence.
    * Relationships between identities and people.
    * Trust between people and the sites that use the identities.

    Whatever movement we get this year will have to be very careful about which part of the problem they try to solve. OpenId has done a really good job of making clear what pieces it solves and which it doesn’t. It doesn’t solve a lot of things, but at least acknowledges as much. I’m not so sure that DataPortability.org has yet established exactly where their boundaries are and should be.

  85. This issues you raise are important. I have been working for 4 years almost full time to help support the evolution of a community to solve these problems. At the core of the problem of getting people related data to move is – Identity. This is what IDentity Commons is all supporting a community of groups addressing the range of issues (technical, social and legal) that come up. http://wiki.idcommons.net/index.php/Working_Group_Descriptions

    I am VERY hopeful that the face to face opportunity to meet at the Data Sharing Summit will move things forward significantly. http://www.datasharingsummit.com – I hope you and other deeply concerned about getting this problem solved can come – there is nothing like a white board and and a real live face to face conversation to make progress on difficult issues.

    The event is being run in the tradition of the Internet Identity Workshop that has been instrumental in progress in that realm. http://iiw.idcommons.net

  86. This issues you raise are important. I have been working for 4 years almost full time to help support the evolution of a community to solve these problems. At the core of the problem of getting people related data to move is – Identity. This is what IDentity Commons is all supporting a community of groups addressing the range of issues (technical, social and legal) that come up. http://wiki.idcommons.net/index.php/Working_Group_Descriptions

    I am VERY hopeful that the face to face opportunity to meet at the Data Sharing Summit will move things forward significantly. http://www.datasharingsummit.com – I hope you and other deeply concerned about getting this problem solved can come – there is nothing like a white board and and a real live face to face conversation to make progress on difficult issues.

    The event is being run in the tradition of the Internet Identity Workshop that has been instrumental in progress in that realm. http://iiw.idcommons.net

  87. I think the most important point is that sometimes we don’t want every network to know everything. I might want to delete my info from one network but not another. And, just like you suggested, I use a different email address for every site I join. Any sort of data propagation between networks would have to be entirely optional.

  88. I think the most important point is that sometimes we don’t want every network to know everything. I might want to delete my info from one network but not another. And, just like you suggested, I use a different email address for every site I join. Any sort of data propagation between networks would have to be entirely optional.

  89. One idea I’ve had about this issue relates to the lifestream aggregators. Is it possible to view FriendFeed as your “social network cloud”? All the updates from the various social networks feed the cloud.

    Then you look at something like Twitter or Jaiku less as THE social network, and more as a social application. Your friends see your updates via FriendFeed, not via Twitter. They can comment directly on the FriendFeed site.

    In such a scenario, switching from something like Twitter to Jaiku or Pownce means you don’t lose the connections you have. They keep up with you via the lifestream cloud. Same idea could apply for moving from Flickr to SmugMug. People don’t keep up with you via the social app – they follow you on the lifestream aggregator. A backdoor way to data (or maybe social network) portability.

    More thoughts here: http://tinyurl.com/29cu6k

  90. One idea I’ve had about this issue relates to the lifestream aggregators. Is it possible to view FriendFeed as your “social network cloud”? All the updates from the various social networks feed the cloud.

    Then you look at something like Twitter or Jaiku less as THE social network, and more as a social application. Your friends see your updates via FriendFeed, not via Twitter. They can comment directly on the FriendFeed site.

    In such a scenario, switching from something like Twitter to Jaiku or Pownce means you don’t lose the connections you have. They keep up with you via the lifestream cloud. Same idea could apply for moving from Flickr to SmugMug. People don’t keep up with you via the social app – they follow you on the lifestream aggregator. A backdoor way to data (or maybe social network) portability.

    More thoughts here: http://tinyurl.com/29cu6k

  91. Matt (comment #6) says:

    “We really need to push for an Open spec on social markup. A downloadable file (like OPML for feeds) marked up with microformats containing your social profile information… all you should have to do is import this file containing all info…”

    That would be FOAF. It was around a long time before the current crop of social networks, and has had an awful lot of work put into it by some very smart people. I’m surprised nobody here has mentioned it yet, as it’s an idea whose time has clearly come. See it at: http://www.foaf-project.org/

  92. Matt (comment #6) says:

    “We really need to push for an Open spec on social markup. A downloadable file (like OPML for feeds) marked up with microformats containing your social profile information… all you should have to do is import this file containing all info…”

    That would be FOAF. It was around a long time before the current crop of social networks, and has had an awful lot of work put into it by some very smart people. I’m surprised nobody here has mentioned it yet, as it’s an idea whose time has clearly come. See it at: http://www.foaf-project.org/

  93. [...] The real roadblocks to data portability on social networks by Robert Scoble Robert is approaching it from the user end perspective, especially for someone like him who is active on several social networks like Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Upcoming.org, FriendFeed, SocialThing, Profilactic, FastCompany.com, Twitter, Pownce, WordPress.com, Disqus, and many more. He raised a number of use cases that aren’t currently possible like changing his main email and having the change propagate to all his social networks, etc. [...]

  94. [...] The real roadblocks to data portability on social networks by Robert Scoble Robert is approaching it from the end user perspective, especially for someone like him who is active on several social networks like Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Upcoming.org, FriendFeed, SocialThing, Profilactic, FastCompany.com, Twitter, Pownce, WordPress.com, Disqus, and many more. He raised a number of use cases that aren’t currently possible like changing his main email and having the change propagate to all his social networks, etc. [...]

  95. I don’t think by the end of the year, but it needs to happen soon. hell, one example… I would like it once when I leave comments on blogs that I don’t need to remember the logins for wordpress, blogger and who knows what else, and the myriad of email addresses I used over the years to set them up. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to leave a comment but the moment passed by the time I either created an ID for something, hunted for the login, or reset a password. Sounds small scale, but a single sign on for all that would be huge.

  96. I don’t think by the end of the year, but it needs to happen soon. hell, one example… I would like it once when I leave comments on blogs that I don’t need to remember the logins for wordpress, blogger and who knows what else, and the myriad of email addresses I used over the years to set them up. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to leave a comment but the moment passed by the time I either created an ID for something, hunted for the login, or reset a password. Sounds small scale, but a single sign on for all that would be huge.

  97. I’m not sure that this will be a profitable venture for Microsoft, but it’s worth a try. We know that owning a centrally located piece of real estate and inviting big names to stake their claim there has worked in the real world in the past. Microsoft has shown their ability in Web 1.0 to make money, and it’s apparent that no one in social networking has figured out how to do that yet . . .

    The Microsoft strategy appears to start with inviting your friends and connections to connect on Windows Live Messenger (not sounding a lot like portability here — I am thinking “import from”).

    So I tried the only currently available option — Facebook. A login to Facebook screen (with Windows Live logo but a Facebook URL) popped up, and the first try on login failed (hmmm, a phishing site?). But the next screen had the Facebook logo, and it logged me in just fine. I didn’t however, see where I could add anyone to an invite list, so . . . I gave up and started blogging.

    So we’ll just keep beta testing while Microsoft keeps building . . .

    http://carterfsmith.blogspot.com/2008/04/social-network-portability-is-coming.html

  98. I’m not sure that this will be a profitable venture for Microsoft, but it’s worth a try. We know that owning a centrally located piece of real estate and inviting big names to stake their claim there has worked in the real world in the past. Microsoft has shown their ability in Web 1.0 to make money, and it’s apparent that no one in social networking has figured out how to do that yet . . .

    The Microsoft strategy appears to start with inviting your friends and connections to connect on Windows Live Messenger (not sounding a lot like portability here — I am thinking “import from”).

    So I tried the only currently available option — Facebook. A login to Facebook screen (with Windows Live logo but a Facebook URL) popped up, and the first try on login failed (hmmm, a phishing site?). But the next screen had the Facebook logo, and it logged me in just fine. I didn’t however, see where I could add anyone to an invite list, so . . . I gave up and started blogging.

    So we’ll just keep beta testing while Microsoft keeps building . . .

    http://carterfsmith.blogspot.com/2008/04/social-network-portability-is-coming.html

  99. Who wants to port their comments from one site to the next anyway? I don’t really think that’s the purpose. If someone needs to go elsewhere then so be it. Leave some clutter behind.

  100. Who wants to port their comments from one site to the next anyway? I don’t really think that’s the purpose. If someone needs to go elsewhere then so be it. Leave some clutter behind.