W3C: Interoperability Key to Social Networking

The World Wide Web Consortium, in a report on the future of social networking, cites the need for an interoperable distributed social Web framework. The W3C report concludes that applications should share profiles and data across networks so that social networking companies can grow and open further Web 2.0 possibilities.

The World Wide Web Consortium on Feb. 3 released a report on the future of social networking, citing the need for an interoperable distributed social Web framework.

Participants in the W3C's Workshop on the Future of Social Networking, including Yahoo Research, Flock, Nokia, Samsung, IBM, Eli Lilly and YouTube, made a number of observations in the report. One such observation was that although growing rapidly, social networking sites-particularly their business models-are hampered by lack of interoperability and could benefit from micropayment solutions.

Other observations in the report were:

"By enabling users to share profiles and data across networks, social networking sites can grow further and open possibilities for a decentralized architecture for the Social Web.Contextual information, especially for mobile device users, can significantly enrich the social networking user experience.Many users remain unaware of the impact of social networking on their privacy.Many social networking sites have yet to take into account the special requirements of users with disabilities, and users on mobile devices."

The two-day workshop drew 55 participating organizations to discuss a variety of topics, such as:

"- the nature of less centralized and more distributed social networks architectures, including their design and possible business and technical challenges associated with distributed social networking;- the increase of contextual information associated with social networking users, its use and possible abuse;- the impact of context as well as existing lack of policies within networks on user privacy risks and the establishment of a Web of trust; and- the tendency for existing social networking platforms to exclude those potential users with disabilities or constrained devices (e.g., mobile)."

"Now is the time for the diverse social network actors out there to work together and resolve barriers to industry growth and stability," said Dominique Hazael-Massieux, W3C's Mobile Web Initiative activity lead. "All social networks users, and especially young people, expect the richest possible social experience, but with full mobility, accessibility and privacy."

The report concluded that applications should share profiles and data across networks in order for social networking companies to grow further and open up more possibilities. But at the same time, data privacy concerns will create barriers to data portability, either between applications or from one platform to another, W3C officials said.

The workshop participants also moved to establish several next steps, including: "the creation of a Social Web Interoperability Incubator Group ... coordination of an open-source demonstration of a decentralized social network architecture ... creation of a MicroPayments Incubator Group to explore the opportunity of restarting work on a micropayments protocol in W3C to facilitate the business development of social networks ... creation of a Social Web Best Practices Incubator Group ... to explore the opportunity to develop privacy guidelines for social networks operators and privacy tutorials for social networks users ... exploring the opportunity to standardize an access control ontology to facilitate the establishment of privacy boundaries in a distributed social networking environment ... and development of use cases and requirements for new context sensors and accessors based on the social networks perspective."

The W3C is looking for input on how to build community around social networking interoperability. Interested parties can use the public mailing list or contact Dominique Hazael-Massieux.