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So, in the last week we’ve seen MySpace, Facebook, Google and no doubt other lost in the news rush all promoting their data portability initiatives or attempts at lowering the bar for people to use data sharing or access a person’s social network across platforms.  This is all great news in terms of taking very real steps towards changing the web.

While in the short term we have market segregation in terms of the fact that we’re bound to have organisations trying out their own ideas of how they want to share or be open or use other services I think that we need to understand that all of these things are just baby steps.  Who know which technology or combination thereof will end up being the de facto for data portability? It’s not just portability either (ie. seemlessly moving your data from one place to another) but identity (enabling a single sign-on for many services) and access to your stuff buried deep in site’s silos (your images, etc in MySpace, Flickr, et al).

There’s a lot of interlinked concepts here, which is in part the reason it’s going to take a while before we have any established methods or standards.  We need to watch what these companies are doing and encourage them on, experiment with our own developments and share our opinions about what we want out of this as web users and developers.

Once we have gone a long way down this road, I can imagine that the web could be a very different place.  You will have control over your stuff.  You only every need to remember one user-name (or URL) and password (in a perfect world) and you should be able to talk to friends across social networks and share media from one service to the next.  As well as imparting this power to the people, most sites should be able to take advantage of this social layer, which could change what they offer.  In terms of social networks, you should be able to choose the one you like best and share across networks.  This means that to retain members networks should be concise and offer clear USPs and not try and copy each other so much.  Niche networks could actually benefit the most, as they could be the ‘home’ network for many people and not have a restriction on only being able to share within that (potentially) small user-base.

It’s all interesting steps…

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15th May, 2008