Microsoft’s Windows Live team is working with Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged and LinkedIn to allow users to move their contacts between the various services.
The software giant is also introducing a new Web site that people can use to invite their friends from these partner social networks to join their Windows Live Messenger contact list, John Richards, the director of Microsoft’s Windows Live platform, said in a blog post to be made public March 25.
Beginning March 25, users can visit Facebook and Bebo to find their friends using the Windows Live Contacts API, while Hi5, Tagged and LinkedIn will go live in the next few months. “We have exchanged reciprocal APIs and expect them to be live within the next 60 to 90 days depending on their development and release cycles” Richards told eWeek.
The risk of phishing is reduced
The six companies will exchange functionally-similar Contacts APIs so as to create a safe, secure two-way street for users to move their relationships between the respective services, Richards said.
“This partnership with five of the most popular social networks will make it easier, safer, and more secure for people to access their contacts and relationships from more places on the Web. These networks will be adopting the Windows Live Contacts API instead of -screen-scraping,’ which puts customers at risk for phishing attacks, identity fraud, and spam,” he said.
The APIs require an explicit delegation screen from Login.live.com, so the risk of user data getting phished is substantially reduced, Roberts said, noting that Microsoft had also made other investments to ensure that Login.live.com was as secure as possible from phishing and data theft.
Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at the Enderle Group, is upbeat about the move, telling eWEEK that it is classic a Microsoft move. He said it speaks to Microsoft’s strength, as its tools are the common technology behind the offerings that allow them to interoperate.
“This is what a platform and tools company should do. It also creates an incentive for these services to use Live Messenger rather than a competing offering or creating their own, and they’d rather not create their own. Microsoft should do more of this kind of thing,” he said.
Two competing camps at Microsoft
For Microsoft’s Richards, the move demonstrates the company’s commitment to data portability and giving users “a choice of how to use and control their information.” The move also follows the announcement earlier in March of a number of new and improved APIs and tools to help the developer community deliver new customer experiences.
“We outlined the priorities for the Windows Live platform, including our intent to simplify data portability while keeping users, and their data, safe and secure. We announced the beta release of the Windows Live Contacts API, which Web developers can use in production to enable their customers to transfer and share their Windows Live Contacts in a safe and secure way. Simply stated, our efforts aim to put users at the center of their online experience,” Richards said.
With regard to Microsoft’s commitment to data portability, Enderle says that there are clearly two competing camps inside the company. One camp is driving the actions-like this one-that are focused on infrastructure and interoperability problems as part of traditional core strengths. The other camp has been on a more proprietary path for some time.
“Right now, overall, it appears the -interoperability’ group is winning,” Enderle said.
Richards also said that Microsoft is “merely the stewards of customer data,” and that customers should be able to choose how they controlled and shared their data.
While Enderle says it is hard to believe that Microsoft would “say this, let alone believe it,” he feels it is, “in fact a true statement and the that folks who are coming up in the organization currently believe it strongly. The closer Microsoft gets to creating products that will allow customers to better control and share their data, the more successful Microsoft is likely to be … they seem to be increasingly getting that now, let us hope that trend continues,” Enderle said.
Richards notes that the user relationships will have to be re-established in each social networking experience through permission from the friend or contact, so that the context of the relationship is maintained and privacy managed.
“We understand that just because people have a friend relationship with a contact on one social network, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want that same relationship on another network,” he said.