Things are really hotting up now in the social networking space and it goes in the right direction due to peer pressure. For the news I am talking about you can read this Techcrunch piece, but in short:
- MySpace launched Data Availability (see Mashable)
- Facebook answered with Facebook Connect
- Google is coming with something they call “Friend Connect” on Monday as of Techcrunch
While this is not real Data Portability it is a good first step that has actually been a lot more likely. The race is now going full throttle in terms of who will be your identity provider on the internet, meaning everywhere in the long run.
The basic idea is that you can use your MySpace/Facebook/Google information and give access to it on other sites. So I might register somewhere else and give it access to granular bits of my identity, giving the new service information about my friends, hobbies, most clicked ads, brand affinity, … you name it. This will go a lot further than simply moving your friends around. Especially because this is only Data Availability (with all 3) not portability, so you are not moving anything around.
The problem is that there will be one main provider most likely. If I attach all my new services to my Google account, Google will know about all those services and Facebook will only know about itself. Hence being at the center is important. Portability is not needed to convince the average Joe, but Availability helps making your the center.
That also means that building a social network gets easier as such, you just need to bring a unique value, bring something to the table that is not in the data but rather in the service you provide with that data. It is really nice seeing it all come together because it validates the choices we made at Ormigo in terms of development and furthers my belief in the long-term vision.
We have Hotmail, AOL Mail and Yahoo! Mail as players in the email space in the US (GMail is really still tiny among normal people ;)). So who will be the winners in Social Networking or Identity Data Provisioning. Facebook, or is it just a fun place to hang out at? The mail providers as they already know? LinkedIn, but they don’t have the mainstream. Plaxo might be interesting. Somehow I feel Google has the data to do it efficiently. In Germany we have United Internet with Web.de/GMX/… in email, so there might be another winner here, but will it be StudiVZ or Xing? Xing is still too small, StudiVZ not trustworthy enough (yet?). The race is still on.