Lack of interoperability in social networking sites

I’ve created a separate gmail account for signing up to social networking and social media sites. I thought it was a smart move, since they generate quite a few messages. Though now I find myself checking that account as much as I check my regular account, which only doubles the work. The flood of messages from sites like Facebook, MySpace, Jaiku, Orkut (yes, I’ve still got an account), Trig, etc. can be annoying, and at the same time you don’t want to miss out on the action.

Through Robin Hamman’s blog I found an interesting article about the lack of interoperability on social networking sites. Michael Geist writes in the Star that this undermines the networks’ usefulness.

The irony of the current generation of online social networks is that although their premise is leveraging the Internet to connect people, their own lack of interconnectedness stifles their potential.

Geist also points to the regionality of social networking sites, even the international ones. He has a list with some examples, for instance Orkut’s appeal to people in Brasil and India.

A number of initiatives are working towards greater interoperability, though. Some examples:

An effort towards a single, decentralized identification system for social media sites. Requires sites to offer OpenID sign-on. Among sites offering OpenID identification are AOL, LiveJournal, Ma.gnolia, Wikitravel and others.
While security issues have been raised, OpenID remains an interesting project.

The Liberty Alliance
Presented as a “standards organization with a global membership that provides a holistic approach to identity”, the Liberty Alliance are defining standards for open identity, writing guidelines for privacy management etc.

Members work closely together to:

* Build open standard-based specifications for federated identity and identity-based Web services.
* Drive global identity theft solutions.
* Provide interoperability testing.
* Offer a formal certification program for products utilizing Liberty specifications.
* Establish best practices, rules, liabilities, and business guidelines.
* Collaborate with other standards bodies, privacy advocates, and government
policy groups.
* Address end user privacy and confidentiality issues.

Project Higgins
An open source project, Project Higgins has code contributions from IBM, Novell and Parity Communications. The goal of the project is to “give people more control over their personal online information”.

“Higgins is an open source software project that is developing an extensible, platform-independent, identity protocol-independent, software framework to support existing and new applications that give users more convenience, privacy and control over their identity information.”

Geist again:

Some services may believe that it is in their economic interest to stick to a walled garden approach; however, given the global divisions within the social networking world, the mix of language, user preferences and network effects, it is unlikely that one or two services will capture the global marketplace.

I found this interesting in the wake of the Facebook debate.

PS. I’ve been on a more or less unintentional break from this blog. Most likely I’m back, though don’t expect daily postings. DS.


Web veteran, journalist, blogger since 1998, loves creativity and originality, photography and her family. [More]

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2 Responses

  1. Projects such as OpenID are gaining a lot of momentum right now. But these projects are nothing but distributed authentication protocols for identitites. There are several other projects for example SAML which is an Internet2 standard for identity federations.

    I would love to see some serious projects about not only identities but relations and social networking objects. Identities is only a minor part of a social network site. FOAF is a protocol that describes relations, but it is not currently very useful.

  2. Thanks pawal, I looked SAML and FOAF up, though most descriptions were too technical for me. I think the Wikipedia entries gave a pretty good summary though.

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