I have been talking and writing about web 2.0, the open web, social networking, and social computing for a while now and now like to refer to all of this as The Open Social Web. In my version of the Open Social Web, all applications and content are built on open web standards that provide users with interoperability and control of their own data. While that may not be the case with many of the larger social networking sites, I like to think of it as a good goal to work towards. Adoption of social tools and applications have moved the digital conversation from blogs to social sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Buzz and Identi.ca, and the adoption of free mobile tools has helped to fuel this migration. While many people lose site of the Open aspect of these tools and social adoption is still growing and that is good for everyone. Social tools are changing how, when and where we communicate and that benefits everyone. Openness leads to innovation, and innovation leads to better tools, applications and communication both within and outside of the social networking space. Location tools like Foursquare and Gowalla are great examples of innovation in the Social space and the wide adoption of desktop tools like Seesmic and TweetDeck prove that users want to pull all of their social data and communications into one tool or application and companies are innovating to make that happen. I use Seesmic more than TweetDeck and both are great social aggregators, however I am still waiting for the tool that produces one open stream with all my social data.
An Open Social Web built on top of the same open infrastructure components will lead to an increase in discovery and sharing across all social sites. A good starting point for learning about open infrastructure technologies is the W3C Incubator Group Report on “A Standards-based, Open and Privacy-aware Social Web”. The W3C Incubator Group Report on Social Web Standards makes a case for Open Social Web Standards and focuses on identity, profiles, social media, privacy, activity streams, accessibility, open social networking projects and business considerations.
Adoption of these tools and standards is growing however there is still a lot of user friction sharing data between the large social networking sites and when it comes time to move to or at least try a new social networking site. This is too bad because discovery of new social tools and friends is a big part of the social web, and there are many groups working to reduce this friction and find tools and let users take their credentials from site to site. OpenID, OAuth and XAuth are the prominent tools for logging into new social tools and services with your current credentials. Many of us have seen the Twitter, Facebook, Google and OpenID buttons presented when logging into new services and the advantage of using these buttons for authentication is access to your current friends at Twitter, Facebook or Goggle on the new service. This enables a pass through service back to your authentication point of choice which enables the user to easily identify current friends on the new service. This functionality helps with discovery and as I said, discovery is a big part of exploring the social web. Joseph Smarr and Jon Panzer outlined many of these tools in their Google I/O 2010 talk on Building fluid social experiences across websites.