- 10 May 08, 09:27 GMT
Michael Arrington has an interesting post at the top of TechCrunch right now.
He's predicting that Google is going to launch a product called Friend Connect on Monday.
In essence, he says, Friend Connect is "a set of APIs for Open Social participants to pull profile information from social networks into third party websites".
Open Social is a collection of tools shared by web services - from MySpace, to Orkut and to Linked In - that allows interoperability of elements like gadgets and applications.
Friend Connect is different from using tools like RSS to pull in information to a website or profile page because the data portability will be two way.
At the moment I can pull my Flickr photos into my Facebook profie, for example, but I cannot alter, add or delete those photos on Flickr from Facebook. I can't add photos to Facebook that are automatically added to Flickr, for example.
If Friend Connect is launched, this is interesting because it is part of a growing trend to turn our scattered digital footprints into something akin to our digital DNA.
At the moment my digital footprints are randomly placed across a multiplicity of sites - from Flickr, to Twitter, Google Calendar, Friendfeed, Facebook, blogs, Ovi, YouTube, Blip TV, Delicious, Google Reader shared items and many others where I've long since stopped updating my information - from Linked In to Upcoming.
Like many people I have a few key hubs and these companies are realising that it makes more sense to let people share their data across websites than trying to lock them into a walled garden.
Why does it make more sense? From a user point of view no one site will ever be able to fulfill all of our digital needs so a single website will always live in fear of a user simply moving his or her data to a different walled garden that happens to have better flowers or a better view.
My 13-year-old Niece, for example, has just abandoned Bebo and de-camped to Facebook, taking all her friends with her.
But if sites let data move freely between these different gardens then users have no reason to leave. So my niece could be on both Bebo and Facebook at the same time.
From a website point of view, it would be a much more powerful proposition to advertisers. Personalised advertising is becoming more and more sophisticated and imagine what they could do with information collated not just from my status updates and profile, but also my GPS-tagged photos and video etc.
This is why MySpace announced something similar on Thursday and why Facebook followed suit a day later.
Arrington believes that "whoever is a player in this space is likely to control user data over the long run."
I'm not quite sure what he means by "control user data" but I think he senses that while data is given more license to roam we will always gravitate to a few hubs and key players, such as MySpace, Facebook or the Google-led Open Social.
These different islands are beginning to build bridges to different services, and the members of Google's Open Social movement, seen in the past as rivals, are also forging links to one another.
One of the key tests of these new linked services, however, will be accountability.
If my data is flowing between different web services, and therefore different firm's data centres, how do I get my information off those services?
Do I have to make one request or 20? If companies are committed to allowing us to share our data across different companies as simply as possible they should also make it just as easy to remove our data.
At the moment I feel, perhaps mistakenly, that I have control over my own data. But once my hubs start to share my data, who controls it?
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