DataPortability announced today that Google, Facebook, and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup on creating open standards for social networking data. DataPortability’s mission is ” To put all existing technologies and initiatives in context to create a reference design for end-to-end Data Portability. To promote that design to the developer, vendor and end-user community.” In the world of social networking, the big players like Facebook and Google currently have proprietary and competing data formats and standards, and there are no easy solutions to integrating information from various platforms. DataPortability is essentially a group that is advocating the adoption of various open standards that are often used in social networking/Web 2.0 applications, such as RSS, so that data from these sites can be taken by the users themselves and reused elsewhere or can be exchanged and enhanced. This announcement follows on the heels of the Robert Scoble/Facebook data tussle, where Scoble downloaded some data about his Facebook friends and Facebook blocked his account. After much furor, Scoble’s account was reinstated, and Chris Saad from the DataPortability Workgroup issued the open invitation for Facebook to join, which they have now accepted. Other members of the group include Yahoo, MySpace, and the BBC.
Of course, the privacy issues are always a challenge, but the issue of ownership of one’s own data that is contributed to sites like Facebook and the value of such data continues to be debated and a proactive approach to opening up these datasets could have a really huge impact on social networking and the Web, if the big boys follow through.