All agree: It’s time for social networks to open up

You’re probably one more than one social networking site, right? How many: three, four? Ten? Be it as it may, you’re very likely to know the pain it is to move between networks, manually syncing (or not) your connections and social networks, re-inviting your friends and colleagues to come along.

Today, Wired‘s web services section features a great rant by Scott Gilbertson: Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open Up

Damn the Facebooks and the MySpaces. The last time we checked, there was this thing called the internet that had 6 billion users. It’s time to take our personal data out of Mr. McGregor’s little gardens and put it back where it belongs — free and open on the open web.

Funny thing is, everybody seems to agree – except for the companies running the networks, that is. Mashable, mass-tester of social networking sites, supports that it’s essential to be able to migrate your network from one service to another. (I’ve complained before, too.) The way to go, it seems, is a reliable, open set of standards:

The launch today of Plaxo Pulse is another step towards openness, but the company fully admits it’s nowhere near where it needs to be in the future: it’s a first step, and likely an attempt to earn bragging points for Plaxo as they say “we were here first!”. But we all know, as evidenced by the Netvibes-Facebook collision last week, that we’re still dealing with a bunch of companies that want to own your attention and keep you within their walls. That won’t do.

Yup, that about sums it up.



Actually it shouldn’t be hard for new networks to integrate the social networks of their users from other platforms. Just like one can enter email and password of your email provider on many sites already to see if one’s email-contacts are registered, you can also think of a similar mechanism for social networks.

Type in your username and password for any given community and we’ll copy the names of your contacts to the network. Plus: there could be a sync to the email adresses and a sync to existing profiles. As a last step a platform could allow to send a mail to everybody in the personal social network you would like to invite. Bumm.

But I would like to state another thing: Everybody plays a different role in any network so you might not want to meet a person on Xing/Linked In with your myspace personality just like you play different roles in different social contexts (work, party, sport..). That’s why I’m not supporting this one-network-many-platforms idea to 100%.

Thanks, Thomas: Excellent point, the issue of context-related identities and personas. So what could a separation between different roles look like? Maybe just on a tag basis?

Just thinking: If I could assign tags to my contacts according to my own set of rules (and those tags would be transferred as well), it should be possible to get it all sorted out. Let’s say I tag a colleague “work”, my housemate “friend”, and some folks I play basketball with “sports”, then I could just transfer all my contacts tagged as “work” from MySpace to LinkedIn, but all of them to Facebook. (As you would be tagged with all three, you’d be moved along to all three networks.) Would that work?

Although I have to admit, I’m not sure it’s even possible to keep up this separation. Or is it?