Yahoo goes OpenSocial, Microsoft preaches data portability

    March 25, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Social media news is all the rage today, as Yahoo signed on with Google and MySpace for the OpenSocial initiative, while Microsoft and partners Facebook and Bebo tout contact data portability.

The OpenSocial news is more of a feel-good story today, as Yahoo and Google both boosted the opening of the OpenSocial Foundation as “an open, community-governed specification for building social applications across the web.”

Here’s the essential bit about OpenSocial:

OpenSocial addresses an emerging problem for developers who are eagerly building applications people can enjoy with their friends: before OpenSocial, if a developer built a “favorite photos” application to work on one social network, it would have to be built all over again to work on another site. OpenSocial tackles this problem at its technology roots, providing common “plumbing” that lets social applications run on many different websites without requiring duplicate work from either developers or the websites.

Kind of sounds like ‘write once, run anywhere’, doesn’t it? I guess no one’s ever heard of Java. Actually, considering how people have chafed over Sun’s stewardship of Java over the years, maybe we’ll see Google’s Dalvik figure in the application development process.

Like kids on the playground, Microsoft has chosen sides in social networking, but they aren’t worried about applications. Instead they opted to focus on the mildly contentious issue of data portability, which we see as much more interesting right now than OpenSocial.

Microsoft’s John Richards called it putting users at the center of their data:

To tackle the issue of contact data portability it is important to reconcile the larger issue of data ownership.  Who owns the data, like email addresses in a Windows Live Hotmail address book?  We firmly believe that we are simply stewards of customers’ data and that customers should be able to choose how they control and share their data. We think customers should be able to share their data in the most safe and secure way possible, but historically this openness has been achieved largely through a mechanism called “screen-scraping,” which unduly puts customers at risk for phishing attacks, identity fraud, and spam. Now with the Windows Live Contacts API, we have provided an alternative to “screen-scraping” that is equally open but unequivocally safer and more secure for customers.

Facebook and Bebo will be the first sites to make data available to the Windows Live Contacts API, with support for LinkedIn, Tagged, and Hi5 coming soon. So yes, users are at the center of their contact data, they just have to go through Microsoft to get to it.