From the OpenID Summit: What gets Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Plaxo to work together? OpenID.

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

I spent this afternoon at a great OpenID Summit, hosted by Yahoo, and featuring some of the leading figures in the industry from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Plaxo, AOL, PayPal and others. This was a real working session, with frank sharing of lessons learned from deployments by these companies and active discussion about how to move forward together as rapidly as possible. There is now a *lot* of horsepower being applied to making OpenID part of the core Web experience.

Interesting to note which companies did not have representatives here. (The two most notable: Twitter and LinkedIn, both of which could really play a big role in online identity.)

One highlight was Michael Jones of Microsoft demoing a prototype of an OpenID identity selector browser extension:

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

Here’s Yahoo’s Aanchal Gupta, reviewing all the great progress they’ve been making on improving the OpenID user experience:

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

Here’s Joseph Smarr of Plaxo, who rallied the troops with a combination of hard-hitting analysis of how much work is still to be done, along with an inspiring reminder of how this community has worked so well together to solve problems with solutions like the “Hybrid” of OpenID and OAuth. (Slides and video further down.):

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

And Luke Shepard of Facebook, who explained that Facebook “does OpenID because it’s good for our business”. Luke, like Joseph, shared important feedback from the perspective of a “Relying Party”:

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

Allen Tom of Yahoo and David Recordon of Facebook led the technical breakout after all the presentations, driving toward a list of items to tackle in the next six months. David reminded us that the 2.0 version of the OpenID spec has been out there since 2007.

From the OpenID Summit, 11/02/09

I’ll add more content as it comes in. Here’s the deck Joseph used for his talk, “What an RP Wants, Part II”:

And some video clips from Joseph’s talk:

Update: Joseph got a post up about his talk, with some additional color.

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Tornado Unleashed in Palo Alto

Bret Taylor talks Tornado at Facebook

Last evening, many of the developers of the Social Web came together in Palo Alto for a Tornado Tech Talk at Facebook. The event delivered a one-two punch from two heavy hitters who recently joined Facebook — David Recordon, the open technology leader and advocate, and Bret Taylor, of the recently-acquired FriendFeed (where Tornado was developed).

What’s Tornado? David Recordon says:

Tornado is a relatively simple, non-blocking Web server framework written in Python. It’s designed to handle thousands of simultaneous connections, making it ideal for real-time Web services.

(Oh, and the big deal is that it has been open-sourced, so that anyone can benefit from the many innovations developed originally for FriendFeed.)

Bret Taylor talks Tornado at Facebook

It was a really great event. Bret Taylor is one impressive individual — deeply technical, a great communicator, and someone with a very coherent world view and philosophy for developing product.

Bret Taylor talks Tornado at Facebook

David Recordon has more details (including Bret’s slides) on his post, Talking about Tornado. And Caroline McCarthy of CNET puts it into perspective with her post, Facebook wastes no time putting FriendFeed to work.

All-in-all, this is a great sign of the continued movement toward an open and interoperable Social Web. I applaud Facebook’s continued moves toward greater openness. And it’s clear that David Recordon and the FriendFeed team are a great addition to the mix!

[UPDATE: Bret has a post up now that, along with the slides, embeds the full video of the talk!]

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Yahoo Advances in the Online Identity War with a More Powerful and More Consumer-Friendly Implementation of OpenID

If it’s not clear to everyone, the future of the Social Web will be be characterized by signing up and signing into services with credentials from the identity provider of your choice. Which company wins in this Online Identity War will reshape the Internet. Today, Yahoo significantly upgraded its weaponry, with a rockin’, consumer-friendly implementation of the OpenID-OAuth hybrid protocol, complete with Facebook Connect-like pop-up, together with launch partners Plaxo (see blogpost) and JanRain.

This “hybrid” approach first saw the light-of-day in a rollout between Google and Plaxo, which famously produced the “92% success result” that jolted the industry. Since this is all pure Open Stack, not proprietary code, it could quickly be replicated (and improved upon). Since then, Facebook implemented it with Google, when they became an OpenID Relying Party. And MySpace also became a hybrid provider.

It will be interesting to watch how this war shapes up between Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, MySpace, JanRain, and others, and how that effects the evolution of the technologies beneath the hood, like OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, and Facebook Connect. Either way, the competition should be great for consumers and the industry.

From the Latest Meetup — “Toward a Distributed FriendFeed”

Today I went to the Stanford campus for the latest meetup, as we work toward an first implementor’s draft. There were folks from Facebook, MySpace, Microsoft, Google, Plaxo, Netflix, and Six Apart, among others, with grass roots/DiSo community leader, Chris Messina informally leading the discussion. It was a truly awesome event, much like ones that came before it in January and April 2009. No invitation was needed to attend; anyone with a passion for an open, interoperable Social Web was welcome to join, to help converge on a candidate open spec that could become a standard element of the new “Open Stack”. meetup

One of the early topics was whether/how the spec should handle ratings. Joseph Smarr, of Plaxo, pushed for testing from various pairwise interactions between publishers and consumers. In particular, looking to get the Netflix feed currently implemented in Plaxo to be compliant with the draft spec.

That raised the broader question of who is already supporting the draft spec with live implementations. Facebook and MySpace are both publishing Activity Streams, and Plaxo and Microsoft are both consuming Activity Streams. There was encouragement for Plaxo to take the next step and go from consuming/aggregating to also publishing. The more major consumer Internet sites that implement the draft spec, the easier it will be to see where it falls short. meetup

There was a desire to codify some unit tests. Rob Dolin of Microsoft volunteered to draft a wishlist of implementations in the wild that would validate the spec.

After a lot of early discussion, we did an around-the-table of introductions; participants in the meeting included:

Kevin Marks, BT
Jyri Engstrom, Google
Jerry Caine, Facebook
John McCrea
Gerard Capiel, MySpace
Joseph Smarr, Plaxo
Adina Levin, SocialText
Dmitri Volkrann, Sybase
JR Conlin, Netflix
Chris Messina, DiSo
Ryan Boyd, Google
Martin Aktins, Six Apart
Monica Keller, MySpace
Rob Dolin, Microsoft
Phil Wolf, Data Portability meetup

Chris Messina shared that the vision for this effort was to enable the development of a “distributed FriendFeed” (and pointed out how the need for that is even greater now that FriendFeed has been acquired by Facebook).

A fun quote (that sent me in search of an online dictionary, I confess), in the debate on whether location is properly an attribute of the actor, the event, or something else, Joseph pre-pended one of his comments with, “I don’t want too get to epistemological…”

There was a lot of discussion and debate over a nested or flat data model for representing activities. Adina Levin of SoxialText, an advocate for a flatter model, lobbied for use of tags to establish context. Some of the examples being debated were “mood” and “location”… JR Conlin of Netflix argued for another model, with machine tags that are extensible.

Joseph asked the group to keep in mind three tests: 1) Can a dumb feed reader read it? 2) For a consumer doing no customization, can you get a enough for free? 3) When you want to do a richer implementation for a given publisher, do you have sufficient flexibility to create something high fidelity?

Chris Messina cautioned that requests for extensibility will come early, citing reactions to the first incarnation of microformats spec, with people saying, “I want to create a microformat for my butterfly collection.” meetup

Joseph, Chris, and I decided to shoot a down-and-dirty episode of The Social Web TV on location, so we grabbed Martin Atkins of SixApart, the author of the draft spec, and headed outside to shoot with my Flip Mino HD. Here’s the special episode:

I think it should be clear that something truly awesome is happening, as the Web goes social, the Social Web goes open, and it’s all being driven through non-corporate collaboration between smart, passionate individuals, rather than through cumbersome, bureaucratic processes. Open Stack, FTW!

Update: Here are more extensive notes from the meetup.


A glimpse into the future of news, thanks to NYT’s open APIs and Plaxo

TimesPeople feed in Plaxo

As my frequent readers know, I’m a strong believer in the emergence of a Social Web characterized by openness and interoperability, and powered by a virtuous cycle of social discovery. The cycle starts when a visitor to a media site shares content out to one or more their social networks, enabling their friends to discover it, click over to the source site to consume it, and from there to share it (or another piece of content) out to their social networks – starting the next loop of the virtuous cycle.

Enabling that cycle under the hood, will be a common “Open Stack” of technologies (like OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams), which will dramatically lower the cost of integration – a critical requirement to scale from a few distribution partnerships to leveraging discovery across the whole of the Social Web. And I believe that such a virtuous cycle will play an essential role in enabling the newspaper industry to evolve from its print past to its online future, with a viable long-term business model that is native to the Social Web.

That’s why I’m so excited by what was rolled out today by Plaxo, long a champion of the shift from walled gardens to the open Social Web, together with TimesPeople, the forward-leaning social news arm of The New York Times, which has led the way on opening up the industry via its revolutionary combination of free access to content and open APIs.

In recent months, the two have been working together to simplify the task of sharing to one or more social networks. Today, they introduced the first fruit of that collaboration, a TimesPeople “feed” for the Plaxo network, which allows one-click sharing from over to the Plaxo network. The feature was implemented via the TimesPeople APIs, without the having to integrate a single line of Plaxo-specific code or even to add a Plaxo logo or link anywhere on the site. (As a result, any other social network or content aggregator could easily replicate the feature.)

TimesPeople members who have hooked up the feed can share a news story with a single click on the “recommend” button next to the article. That’s it. In the background, without any further effort, Plaxo picks up and delivers a content bundle that includes the story’s headline, a snippet of copy, a thumbnail image, and link to the full story.

Other social networks can take advantage of the same API, as well, paving the way for a model in which one click by a reader can promote a story to all of the aggregation services that user shares on.

This stands in stark contrast to the status quo on most media sites. All too often, sharing a piece of content means choosing from a bewildering array of branded links, or a popup UI splattered with dozens of colorful, little Web 2.0 logo icons. Or more recently, it might mean a deeper one-off integration with a single partner. Either way, the media site ends up having to decorate itself with one or more logos – and faces the hard choice of how many and which ones to present to their audience as choices.

Nascar effect

And this “Nascar effect” makes it highly unlikely that a user will make the effort to share content out to more than one of the social networks they use.

Hats off to Derek Gottfrid of TimesPeople and Joseph Smarr of Plaxo, for this great example of Social Web interoperability!

[Reminder/disclosure: Plaxo is my employer (but I try my best to write about it here objectively and only when it is relevant to opening up the Social Web).]

Update: There’s also now a post on NYT’s “Open” blog, Plaxo: The Pulse of TimesPeople. Nice!

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Mainstreaming “open”: David Recordon joins Facebook!

David Recordon

It was first reported by BusinessWeek today, that as part of their step-on-the-gas hiring spree, Facebook has landed one of the most prominent figures in the Open Web movement, David Recordon. David confirmed the report, first via Twitter (after receiving a few congratulations from key players on the Facebook Connect platform team, including Dave Morin and Josh Elman) — and later via a blogpost.

I think this is great news for the emerging Social Web, as this now gives David a chance to cross-pollinate between the grass-roots open-spec world of OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, and the rest of the Open Stack and the mainstream, rapidly growing Facebook platform that is serving over 300 million active users and countless thousands of developers of all sizes.

I hope and believe we can continue to count on David to be a passionate and clear-headed voice on behalf of user rights and the Open Web. And I can’t wait for the next episode of The Social Web TV, where David joins me, Joseph Smarr, and Chris Messina on a frequent basis, to make sense of the evolution toward a more open and interoperable Web.

[Update: gotta love Chris Messina's post on this!]

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Green screen, FTW! New episode of The Social Web TV

Together with David Recordon and Joseph Smarr, I take on the Social Web news of the week, plus a book review, and a strange detour to the moon. Genius? Or did our show just “jump the shark”? Please watch and decide for yourself. As for me, I say, “Green screen, for the win!”

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Is the Wall Street Journal really building a “LinkedIn killer”?

This evening, TechCrunch had the scoop on a secret project at the venerable Wall Street Journal, a project that Michael Arrington reports is referred to within the team building it as a “LinkedIn killer”. While I don’t have any inside information on the project, I do have an opinion on whether it will be just that…

Before offering my opinion, I must say that I admire the Wall Street Journal in many ways. When I had my “born-again-capitalist epiphany” 20 years ago in the days after the Berlin Wall came down, one of my first acts of transformation from Bohemian to entrepreneur was to purchase a copy of the Wall Street Journal. Over the years, I came to rely on the WSJ as a consistently reliable source of hard-hitting journalism on business and matters of great import. A drop-dead seriously great publication.

I also admire the creativity and ambition implied by Michael Arrington’s piece, and sincerely hope that his post is true. Indeed, it is time for the Wall Street Journal (and all other newspapers) to address, head-on, the existential threat that the Internet represents to the entire industry of news delivery. As loyal readers will recall, I’ve been on record that the death of newspapers is accelerating.

That said, I don’t think LinkedIn is vulnerable to any new business network starting up, whether incubated at a newspaper on in-the-wild. LinkedIn is one of what I think of as one of the “three horsemen of the Social Web,” networks that are fundamentally about real identity and real relationships, specifically Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo (where I am employed, as many of you know).

Why? Because the Social Web is entering its explosive growth phase. Facebook, the clear leader of the pack, now has over 250 million active users, with highest growth rates in the seriously post-college over-30 crowd. But LinkedIn and Plaxo are also growing rapidly, as we are watching something very similar to the birth of the Web some 15 years ago. Rather than stealing share from each other, the leaders in providing a “people layer” for the Internet are riding on massive wave that “grows the pie”.

Plaxo just recently rolled out a few features that Eric Eldon of VentureBeat says moves us deeper into business networking. And just this evening, we announced revamped Plaxo profiles to make them more professional, more dynamic, and for those who want a public profile, “truly public” (not just a teaser to sign up for or sign into Plaxo).

After we did, someone tweeted to ask if we were moving to compete directly with LinkedIn. I thought it was an interesting question. Again, it was the kind of zero-sum thinking that I do not think applies to the explosive growth we’re seeing as the Web goes social.

If LinkedIn has any threat right now, it is one of fundamental model or strategy. Not only is the Web going social, but the Social Web is going open and interoperable. Just as Plaxo and Facebook have figured out how to do amazing things for their mutual members, so must LinkedIn embrace interoperability with Plaxo, wth Facebook, and with the other people-powered apps of the Web — including whatever it is that the Wall Street Journal may be working on.

Update: the story is also being covered by Seeking Alpha

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New Episode: “The Social Web and the Loss of a Pop Star”

When a major figure in the pop music world is lost, what role can social media play in bringing us together in celebration of their life and music? Join me, Joseph Smarr, Chris Messina, David Recordon, and special guest, Kevin Marks for an unforgettable episode of The Social Web TV!

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New episode: “The Revolution will be Tweeted”

In this new episode of The Social Web TV, David Recordon, Joseph Smarr, and I cover the Social Web news of the week and the role of Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook in the Iran Election protests.

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