Portable Social Networks

Every time a new social network comes along if you want to join, should you have to enter all your information yet again? The session Building Portal Social Networks sought to answer this. The panelists were:

Sites such as Facebook, Dopplr and Plaxo are able to extract contacts from your email provider; this is done using specific APIs. Google provide the Contacts Data API for Gmail, Microsoft the Windows Live Contacts API for Hotmail; and Yahoo the Mail Web Service APIs for Yahoo.

For retreiving contacts and other information from other social networking sites use the Google OpenSocial API. Websites implementing OpenSocial, include Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.

There are some other options open to you but to my ignorant eyes these look more hassle than the options above:

Most social network sites follow a standard architecture which has a profile page for each user, often with an easy to remember URL. The information about a user on this page should be marked-up with hCard. Where you have additional pages containing other user information such as friends list you should link to them using the XHTML Friends Network (XFN) rel=”me” attribute in the address tag; this will tell any parser that the linked page is also about this user. Alternatively you can use Friend of a Friend (FOAF). Google indexes the public web for XFN or FOAF markup. Using Google Social Data API you can extract the relationships for a give page.

Oauth provides a standard way of accessing third party authorisation systems (e.g. Gmail) while protecting their account credentials.

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