While a lot of the energy behind the explosion in a diverse range of social software is the celebrated “network effect” (much talked about but a good starting point is O’Reilly’s 2005 piece on Web 2.0) it has been a story of competing networks. Initiatives such as “OpenSocial” (and blogged about by CETIS colleages Scott Wilson and Simon Grant) are more open in the sense of an API opening up a proprietary system than many might like. To be fair, OpenSocial did get buy-in from number of others but it has the feel of an “embrace and extend” tactic as Scott points out.
More recently, it was announced that individuals from Plaxo, Google and Facebook were joining DataPortability. DataPortability seems to have a rounded approach that they express as: “invent nothing + keep it simple and open and put it all in the context + create the brand (simple user story). This set of principles should be among the first candidates for adoption in any interoperability-oriented effort. Learning technology “standards” as we have seen them over the last 10 years or so have often not adopted this kind of philosophy and it would be an interesting bit of speculation to consider what would have happened if they had. You could make a provocative statement that DataPortability is working “beyond standards” (the title of the 2007 JISC CETIS conference).
What will come of this is far from certain but my speculation is that we will see some Google pick-and-mix, a bit more “embrace and extend” but overall movement in the direction of greater data portability. I think the writing on the wall has been clear for some time: that loyalty to one social network is not reality. In the war for market share the punters will drift away from sites that slam the door behind them. So far we have seen basic feeds as the means for people to bridge between silos but I predict that user demand for greater permeability will quickly drive buy-in to data portability and the war for market share will move on to new battlefields. Along the way something like the DataPortability brand will be the selling point but a quickly forgotten one.