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?

142 thoughts on “The real roadblocks to data portability on social networks

  1. 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.”

  2. 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.”

  3. 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 :-)

  4. 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 :-)

  5. [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.”

  6. [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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. @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.

  12. @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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  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.

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