Wednesday Nov 05, 2008

Open Social Networks built on Open Identity and Open APIs

This has been an year of Application Platforms and we have seen a number of Social Networks and XaaS flourish. Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, Friendster, Orkut, Google Apps Engine, Y!OS, EC2 to name a few. Everything is syndicated and social is everywhere. Its the people who are the center of the services, not the software. There is a seemingly infinite demand for applications, almost difficult to deliver. Social computing is becoming a pillar of mass culture. Software is increasingly mediating between people and Apps is a way of life.

However, its also evident that in the current world, these social networks and platforms live alone and isolated from each other and there is no easy way to maneuver seamlessly between different networks.  This limitation is giving birth to Identity platforms wherein every user has an Open Identity and the social network vendors are being encourged to implement their platforms on top of these open Identity standards. In the coming year, we are likely to see more "Open Social Networks" so as to lower the barrier to entry in a social network, ease user acquisition and make socializing a more vibrant experience.

An Open Identity is an entity built on open standards that would define some of the following user attributes:

  • My profile
  • What people say about me
  • Who my friends are
  • What is my content
  • Which sites I can go to
  • etc.

Basically this entity would define a user. If all platforms leverage the same standard identity platform, then it would be seamless for a user to enter new networks. This would enable the service providers to get valuable insights into new user base by allowing them to easily plugin to their networks using open identity.

Yahoo! , MySpace and other vendors in this space are preaching what they are calling "Open Stack" that would make user data portable and enable a user to carry their address books with them while signing on to a new network or platform. As an example, figure below illustrates the Y! Open Platform.

With the web becoming more open and social, standards are needed to power the social functionality without having to reinvent the wheel every time. It only makes sense to tap into the existing semantic information and participate in the echo system. Its important to understand this distributed landscape and plan intelligently so that one can best leverage the building blocks.

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alkagupta

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