After publishing an invitation to Facebook to join the DataPortability Working Group January 4, we never thought that Facebook would accept it. Today changes everything you’ve ever thought about social-networking data and lock-in before, because today Facebook, Google and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup.
Google and Plaxo joining are a positive, however given that both have previously joined together for platforms such as OpenSocial it’s not that significant, but Facebook is another matter. On January 4 Michael sort of defended Facebook’s stance against Plaxo pulling data from Facebook on the grounds that “Facebook also has a very good reason for protecting email addresses – user privacy.” Today, by joining the DataPortability Working Group Facebook is embracing open standards and open access, and that is a huge fundamental change from its previous stance on being locked in to closed standards.
I spoke with the head of the DataPortability Group Chris Saad prior to this post (Chris is also the CEO of Faraday Media.) After about 24 hours of correspondence, the following are to join the working group as official representatives of their respective companies: Joseph Smarr (Plaxo), Brad Fitzpatrick (Google) and Benjamin Ling (Facebook).
The DataPortability Workgroup is actively working to create the ‘DataPortability Reference Design’ to document the best practices for integrating existing open standards and protocols for maximum interoperability (and here’s the key area) to allow users to access their friends and media across all the applications, social networking sites and widgets that implement the design into their systems.
There has been no shortage of people who have knocked Facebook for their closed standards prior to today, perhaps many of whom had a legitimate point. Today Facebook has taken the first step towards open standards and data portability, and despite those previous gripes they should be congratulated for it.