Google is expected to join the social network data portability crowd with “Friend Connect” on Monday. TechCrunch speculates that Friend Connect will be a set of “APIs for Open Social participants to pull profile information from social networks into third party websites.”
Google will join Facebook and MySpace, which launched ways to port user data to partner sites this week. Facebook Connect will provide the hooks to let users port their friends, profile photos, events, and other data across the Web to partner sites. MySpace on Thursday announced Data Availability, with Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket, and Twitter as initial partners for its effort to let members port their data.
Yahoo is partnering with the leading social networks so its users can take advantage of the freeing of user data, and it will also be crafting its own social network and APIs as part of its forthcoming Yahoo Open Strategy.
TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington reasons:
The reason these companies are are rushing to get products out the door is because whoever is a player in this space is likely to control user data over the long run. If users don’t have to put profile and friend information into multiple sites, they will gravitate towards one site that they identify with, and then allow other sites to access that data. The desire to own user identities over the long run is also causing the big Internet companies, in my opinion, to rush to become OpenID issuers (but not relying parties).
With 70 million users, more than 20,000 Facebook applications, and about 350,000 developers, Facebook has a major scale advantage over Google’s Orkut. MySpace has the advantage of an even larger user base, but lags Facebook on the developer and application fronts.
However, Google has been taking a more open and distributed approach with its OpenSocial API, which allows compliant applications to work across any social network. By extension, Friend Connect would provide glue to allow any site to add a social dimension and build connections to other social networks.
I spoke with David Glazer, Google director of engineering, in March about injecting the social graph and data portability into the core fabric of the Web. He said the big challenge isn’t the technology but applying existing and emerging standards, such as OATH (secure API authentication), OpenID (identity management) and OpenSocial APIs (application integration).
The key for all the data portability efforts (check out the DataPortability Project) is that users have granular controls to manage their data and to maintain privacy and security. Facebook and MySpace have not fully disclosed how their privacy controls will work yet. Stay tuned for more details on Google’s Friend Connect and the next chapter of “The Making of the Social Web.”