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Data Portability, Privacy, and the Emergence of the Social Web

Focus on Social Platforms
Location: 2022 Level: Novice

The Web is on the cusp of a major new era: “who you know” is becoming a fundamental ingredient of a large and growing number of socially enabled applications and services; a lens through which news and media are shared, filtered, and consumed, and a major conduit by which new services are discovered and adopted. Yet for all its promise, this “Social Web” is still in many ways nascent and immature: users are increasingly frustrated at having to re-create profiles and re-establish relationships from scratch on every new site they visit; there is confusion over what type of control users should have of their own information and relationships, and when and how it’s appropriate to share that information with other people and services; and developers are still largely forced to choose between developing an independent site with little access to rich social information or “widgetizing” their app to deploy it inside an existing social network’s walled garden.

Amidst this growing clamor of online social activity, a number of grass-roots technologies are emerging that would allow a more open and decentralized Social Web in which users can build a consolidated online identity that spans multiple tools and services and the data users create on each site can be made portable, so relationships established in one place can become meaningful and durable in other contexts, and in which users and developers no longer need to “start from scratch” in order to craft new social experiences, thus lowering the bar for innovation.

This talk will describe the social landscape as it stands, highlight the technologies that are changing what’s possible (including OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, and others), and illuminate the current debates over privacy, control, and portability that have made the emerging Social Web such a hotly discussed topic. It will also lay out a clear vision of what this next phase of the Web may look like.

Photo of Joseph Smarr

Joseph Smarr


Joseph Smarr is Chief Platform Architect at Plaxo. He is currently leading Plaxo’s “Open Social Web” initiative to put users back in control of who they know when using socially-enabled sites by using open data-sharing standards. An active participant in the Web 2.0 community, Joseph has built web applications for many years, including Plaxo’s online address book, web widgets, and was architect and lead developer of the Plaxo 3.0 rich AJAX address book, calendar, and sync tool. Joseph has a BS and MS from Stanford University in Artificial Intelligence.