Social Networking Data Portability Cheat Sheet


I’m building this post as a personal cheat sheet for Data Portability efforts in social networking. Coz I can’t keep it straight. Give me a few days to construct it, at which point I’ll probably make it a separate page on this here blog.

Please let me know if you see errors, or have comments. Frankly this stuff is pretty confusing; I’m happy to have any mistakes corrected.

So, data portability in social networks is about sharing data about users (name, favorite band, who your friends are, etc.) among different Web sites and different social networks. Specifically you can think about data portability in the following ways:

  • Who I Am (authentication/ID and profile info)
  • Who I Know (social graph)
  • What’s Going On (feeds of personal and friend activity)
  • App Portability (sticking apps/widgets on other networks)

Further, it’s useful to think about those bulletpoints in terms of:

  • Data In (to your own social network, say, SelectMinds corporate social networking apps)
  • Data Out (to other networks, say, LinkedIn or Facebook)

Now, there are basically four horses out there. The Open Stack including OpenID, using (mostly) open standards to accomplish data portability; Google Friend Connect and OpenID which uses both the open standard OpenID and Google’s Friend Connect; Facebook Connect and the Facebook APIs, being used by Facebook and various sites that want to cash in on the Facebook mojo, and MySpace’s MySpaceID. On the outside is LinkedIn, which is keeping its user data tightly held, although it is opening up a bit.

Finally, on the enterprise side, Google and are getting very cozy, while Microsoft’s Sharepoint is still in the realm of talking only to other Microsoft apps, or one-off integrations.

More on all this below…

The “Open Stack”

This mishmash of open standards is recently become somewhat subsumed by Google’s efforts with FriendConnect, but I decided to list it separately for clarity’s sake.

Who I Am

  • OpenID
    -Single ID, authentication, across many sites
    -Alleged profile-attribute sharing as well
    -Used by Yahoo, Google mail, Windows Live, Plaxo, hi5, etc.

Who I Know

  • Contact APIs (such as Google Friend Connect (?))
  • OAuth (Share private data between trusted sites)

What’s Going On

  • RSS/Atom: Syndicate your activity to share with others
  • Jabber/XMPP: Real-time update stream between sites (esp. for “status”)

App Portability

  • OpenSocial (Owned by Google, which is pushing it as an open standard)

Google FriendConnect mated with OpenID

Google was an early booster for open standards for data sharing across social networks (which makes sense, as it was and is lagging far behind Facebook and MySpace in terms of social network usage). To a certain extent, Google FriendConnect now mirrors the Open Stack, but I thought I’d keep ’em separate. Details:

Who I Am

  • OpenID for authentication and UserID. That’s important because of the many sites that are using OpenID for authentication. Basically, then, if your site uses OpenID, it can also leverage FriendConnect for social data and OpenSocial for widgets.
  • FriendConnect for profile-attribute sharing.

Who I Know

  • FriendConnect allows friend lists to be shared among any subscribing sites
  • FriendConnect also supports OAuth data portability.

What’s Going On

  • FriendConnect also has feed messages and other activity covered, allowing sharing of this info among subscribing sites

App Portability

  • Open Social is the mechanism for placing app widgets on subscribing Web sites. Note also that Open Social gadgets can grab the social data from FriendConnect.

Facebook Connect and Facebook APIs

Facebook is the number 1 social network in the world, and fast gaining on MySpace in the US. So far, it hasn’t seemed inclined to play in the “Open” world.

Facebook allegedly has 24 launch partners for Facebook Connect, including Digg, Twitter, Plaxo, CBS. Unclear how many have actually taken it up. Here’s more on Facebook Connect.

Who I Am

  • Facebook connect links Facebook profile attributes out to participating sites. Including image, and other profile attributes. Facebook connect is now open, allowing “any” third-party site that signs up to pull data about visitors from Facebook. Wow.
  • Unclear if profile updates made at partner sites are pushed into Facebook.

Who I Know

  • Facebook Connect enables pushing Facebook social graph information out to partner sites.
  • Unclear if updates at partner sites push back to Facebook.

What’s Going On

  • Facebook Connect also makes FriendFeed data available to other sites.
  • And posts activity back into Facebook.

Portable Apps

  • Facebook platform enables third-party developers to put their apps on Facebook, although this is an area of apparently decreasing importance for Facebook.


MySpace has rolled out MySpaceID to try to catch up with Facebook. It lags behind Facebook Connect in some aspects. However, it largely embraces the Open Stack and Google Friend Connect, so could gain more leverage (read: everyone’s ganging up on Facebook). To whit:

Who I Am

  • MySpaceID allows users to log into other sites using their MySpace credentials
  • And allows for portability of profile attributes to other Web sites
  • OpenID comptabile

Who I Know

  • MySpaceID also allows for the use of social graph information on other sites

What’s Going On

  • MySpaceID currently does not support publishing activity from other sites into MySpace, and publshing MySpace activity out to other sites. ETA is early 2009.
  • OAuth compatible

Portable Apps

  • OpenSocial

LinkedIn’s InApps

LinkedIn is only reluctantly getting into the API game, thus far only accepting a (very limited) set of third-party apps onto its site. No sharing of “Who I Am”, “Who I Know”, or “What’s Going On”. Bad LinkedIn! Thus, it’s really just:

Portable Apps

  • OpenSocial-based platform. LinkedIn’s being picky about what business apps it accepts, although they’re all pretty lame so far.

Google and

Comin soon….


Most of this piece is sourced from TechCrunch. Hey, they make it easy. Here are some of the articles that were helpful.

3 Responses to “Social Networking Data Portability Cheat Sheet”

  1. 1 Maria Tseng

    Good post but incomplete. Would like to see more, much more.

  2. 2 Steve Kuhn

    Hi Maria. Fair enough! I need to update this post. Can you tell me what specifically you wanted to see more of?

  3. I want a ‘mashboard’ to help me manage my participation in many, many social networks. This my personal interest in OpenSocial. In a broader sense, I strongly support the maturation of the Web. See my blogpost about the ‘normal trajectory.’ so I want to know enough of the nuts and bolts to apply some business thinking. I’m a business consultant so want to develop good monetization models.

    I hope to attend, and if no session is already created for the Web2Open part, then organize a session on Open Social at the Web 2.0 Expo at the end of March. Will you be attending?

    I would also LOVE to see more semantic features. Do you know of any integration of semantic technologies in web-optimized data types?

    Can we communicate via email instead of in this very public way? You can see my email address but I can only ‘speak’ to you through ‘comments.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: