The OpenSocial initiative — the everyone-but-Facebook coalition organised by Google — is supposed to make communicating between social networks seamless and easy. Developers are supposed to be able to build one application and port it over to various networks, and users can sign in to many sites with a single ID. Now a newish feature, Portable Contacts, may take OpenSocial one giant step closer to creating a truly seamless experience.
Portable Contacts basically allows people to port their friend lists or address books. The idea is that if participating e-mail providers, social networks, and other sites have a “friend” component to them, you’d be able to sign up for any site and automatically find anyone you know who is also on that site and connect with them.
Pieces of this already exist in different forms. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all allow you to import your contacts, and Facebook and MySpace each have their own initiatives that allow users to take data from their profiles to outside sites. The difference here is that Portable Contacts is platform agnostic.
The catch: It’s only supported by two platforms. Granted, MySpace and Plaxo are pretty big platforms. But unless more Open Social members sign on, it’s going to have limited utility. So what’s the timeline for making this a real offering? Maybe by the end of the year, says Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect at Plaxo, who’s been championing the project.
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