Connecting the dots

It looks like Open Social Graph, or whatever people start calling it, is gaining momentum.

(I've also seen it referred as social network portability. Dave Winer says skip the geekness and call it a social network. Hey, Dave, for most of us normal folk, the name Social Graph is about the least geekiest thing about this idea.)

SmugMug, a photos sharing site, implemented the Open Social Graph technologies (XFN, FOAF, OpenID) just a day after David Recordon posted his "manifesto" on blogging software and social networking company SixApart's site.

First, the basics. Recordon says the Open Social Graph is based on the ideas that:

  • You should own your social graph
  • Privacy must be done right by placing control in your hands
  • It is good to be able to find out what is already public about you on the Internet
  • Everyone has many social graphs, and they shouldn't always be connected
  • Open technologies are the best way to solve these problems
And demos and code are coming, plugins for Movable Type (which powers this blog) and more.

Who's Recordon? A just-turned-21-year-old programmer whose on course to change the world.

A backgrounder on what this is all about is Brad Fitzpatrick's (with Recordon as editor) "Thoughts on the Social Graph" from way back just over a month ago.

Who's Fitzpatrick? He created the blogging platform LiveJournal (now owned by SixApart) and recently joined Google. At 27, he's well along to changing the world. OpenID, a single-signon system, is arguably his most important contribution to date.

If you want skip the read, it comes down to this quote: "People are getting sick of registering and re-declaring their friends on every site."

OK, that's pretty easy. It's also a way to let you manage your network of  friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and randomly met people, and to control what's connected and what's private and from whom. Pretty heady stuff, really.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of small social networking jump on this one, but what's needed is one or more of the big players to make it happen.

Seems like a no-brainer to make LinkedIn look innovative for the first time since Facebook was opened to the masses. It'll be interesting to see if Fitzpatrick's employer takes up this banner in its foray into social networking.

Newspapers, I think, would be wise to hooked into both OpenID and the Open Social Graph, too. Newspapers are often using multiple vendor sites too often without a central registration scheme. Wouldn't OpenID easily solve that problem?

Right now, however, the Open Social Graph or socialgraph in shorthand is about as geeked as it gets. Those that know what Ubuntu is can figure it out, but the average social networker? No, it's not a foreign country. And really, the older OpenID is not much better at the "Would my mom do it?" test question. Remember, that's a yes/no question, not an essay.

At least OpenID does have traction with some large sites and many small sites.

Yes, it's one of those ideas that could make life simpler for the average person using the Internet. Open, freely available technologies that allow a user to control their Internet footprint.

I hope this succeeds.