As I mused yesterday about Facebook’s lack of respect for privacy in a bid to make billions, along comes a story putting Facebook’s valuation at $15 billion. But I’m not convinced Facebook is poised to take over the world just yet. Myspace once sat on top of the social networking world, and I’m wondering whether Facebook’s greedy compulsion to disregard users’ privacy will undermine its value in short order. In other words, is Facebook a bubble?
In the same Wired news feed as the $15 billion valuation comes a hint at an open source alternative for social networking. In the short term this could mean some plug-ins that could be integrated into WordPress, the fab and free open source software that powers this blog. Such a development might also deal with the platform compatibility issues that block users from different social networking sites from engaging with each other. Oh, Daddy likes …
By Scott Gilbertson
Two fast growing standards in the world of identity management are paving the way for the open social web of the future. Earlier this week the final draft spec for OpenID 2.0 was released and, with the release of OAuth 1.0 last month, the open social web now has both a secure, centralized means of identifying yourself and a way to control who knows what about you.
Taken together, OpenID and OAuth establish an open, reusable means of turning the whole web into your own personal social network.
And this isn’t just some arbitrary standard that might be used in the future — OpenID is backed by big names like Microsoft and AOL and is already implemented on a wide variety of sites. OAuth is newer and less widespread, but it adds the key ingredient OpenID doesn’t handle — control.
Chris Messina, who has been working on OAuth and the open social web in general, has a post detailing what he’s doing with both specs and how these two might be used in the future.
It means that we now have protocols that can begin to put an end to the habit of treating user’s credentials like confetti and instead can offer people the ability to get very specific about they want to share with third parties. And what’s most significant here is that these protocols are open and available for anyone to implement. You don’t have to ask permission; if you want to get involved and do your customers a huge favor, all you have to do is support this work.
On the practical side, Messina is working on a series of WordPress plugins that use elements of OpenID, OAuth and XFN markup to make it simple for you to turn your blog or other WordPress site into a social network hub.
While these proposed implementations are specific to WordPress, the underlying ideas (and open code) could easily be ported to other platforms. For instance, Simon Willison has long supported OpenID on his blog.
To get a taste of what OpenID allows you to do head over to Willison’s blog and login using your OpenID url. Once you’ve identified yourself, Willison has some handy links to identify all the comments you’ve left on his posts and the posts themselves are included in your “watchlist” (essentially the things you find interesting on his site). Naturally all that data is available as an RSS feed for easy tracking.
At the moment Willison’s blog is an isolated, forward-thinking example, but when/if Messina releases his planned WordPress plugins, you can expect this sort of functionality (and more) to become far more widespread.
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