Tag Archives: Microsoft

Live-Blogging from the Activity Streams Meetup at Web 2.0 Expo

The opening up of the Social Web is accelerating on an exponential curve. So many things have happened in recent weeks that I have not managed to blog about. I hope my loyal readers will forgive me for not posting on the big rollout of MySpaceID or Google’s support for Portable Contacts in GMail. Anyway, onward…

Sign for the Meetup

I’m up in SF with Joseph Smarr at Web 2.0 Expo. I shot video of Joseph’s talk this morning, which I hope to post, along with the slides, tomorrow. Now, I’m at the Activity Streams meetup, that started with lunch, but is just now getting down into the working session. MySpace has a bunch of folks here, and is helping us get organized. There are also folks from Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Plaxo, Nokia, Six Apart, and Vidoop, among others. This is a follow-on to the meetup in January, which I live-blogged then.

The industry and community circle

After a lot of discussion, David Recordon suggests that what we need is a bunch of examples of use cases and questions, asserting that we probably already have good answers to most of them. Joseph Smarr suggests a 90-day period of soak time for the current draft spec, with people implementing against it.

As usual, what I am most impressed by is the genuine collaboration underway, in which it is clear that none of the companies participating is trying to extract some proprietary advantage. This is truly an open spec process, in which the need for a common standard is far greater than any company’s desire for unique advantage. After all, webwide activity stream aggregation, pioneered by Plaxo in the summer of 2007, is now the blueprint for the the Social Web, as expressed in implementations from Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, and AOL, among others.

The circle grows

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FriendFeed and Plaxo: Latest Traffic Trends for the “Webwide Lifestream Aggregator” Pioneers

The concept of an “open social network,” one that gets its news feed not from within its own walls, but rather by aggregating lifestreams from all over the open Web, first appeared with the launch of Plaxo Pulse in August 2007. [Reminder/disclosure: I head up marketing at Plaxo. :)]

While Plaxo stayed heads-down focused on serving its traditional 30- to 50-year-old professional demographic with private sharing and conversations based on a family/friend/business connection model, FriendFeed came roaring into the space with a service as public and extensible as Twitter, and quickly became a darling of the early-adopter and blogger/influencer crowd.

The two services have continued to innovate down different pathways and to help map out a blueprint that we are now seeing adopted by some of the largest social networks (Facebook and MySpace) and largest of mainstream Internet companies (Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL). So, let’s take a look at the traffic trend for these two pioneers, through the lens of the latest data from Compete.com. [Note: Compete.com only looks at U.S. traffic, and like all other tracking services, provides an approximate tally.]

Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed

While each service experienced a month here or there of sideways drift or month-over-month declines in monthly unique visitors, the clear overall trend for 2008 is one of strong growth. Plaxo in particular is showing encouraging signs of vibrancy at the end of 2008.

The key question now: with much larger players putting all their chips on the webwide lifestream aggregation model, can either of both of the two pioneers grow fast enough in their respective niches to carve out a great longterm position in the marketplace?

My belief is that the answer is “yes,” as the Web itself goes social, and the Social Web goes open, creating a wave of innovation that will favor the most agile of aggregators. And as a passionate user of both services, I sure hope I’m right!

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The Social Web: My Predictions for 2009

Gypsy_fortune_teller

It’s that time of year, when would-be futurists are compelled to publicly assert their predictions for the coming year. IMHO, I knocked it out of the park with my prediction for 2008.

So, I decided to go bigger this year, and make not one, but five bold predictions around the emergence of the Social Web.

Prediction 1: Facebook will begin its migration to the “Open Stack” and roll out support for at least one piece of it. Leading candidates: OpenID and OAuth.

Prediction 2: Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft will rollout support for Portable Contacts for their respective webmail services.

Prediction 3: Microsoft will implement OAuth, at least for Portable Contacts, if not more broadly.

Prediction 4: Microsoft’s “Windows Live” social network will become an OpenSocial container.

Prediction 5: Plaxo will so successfully prove onboard turbocharging via the Open Stack that they will abandon traditional email/password signups entirely.

These predictions are solely my opinion and are not based on any knowledge of specific product plans — except for maybe number 5. ;)

As with last year, I will check in on these at mid-year and end of the year.

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Facebook, Microsoft and Data Portability

Michael Arrington has a great piece up on TechCrunch entitled “The Very Curious Microsoft-Facebook User Data Relationship“. In it, he shines a spotlight on a most curious thing — that Facebook has given Microsoft access to data on Facebook users that they have said they would not give to anyone, as it would violate users’ privacy. Specifically, he shows screenshots of an import of a Facebook friends list into Microsoft’s IM client, Messenger, in which the user ends up with the email addresses of all of the their friends (and can then connect with them or invite them to Messenger).

As you may recall, this was at the heart of the controversy now know as “Scoblegate,” in which Plaxo had created a Facebook importer that brought a user’s friends list, including email address over into the Plaxo address book. Aside from the interesting questions Michael Arrington raises, I would add this observation: It is great to see this functionality out there, live since March, without a single bit of controversy. That speaks to the utility of data portability. If social networking really is about real people and real relationships, it would be great if sharing information were real sharing of information, not tethered-sharing , which is essentially “social DRM”.

Also, really funny how the official blogpost from Microsoft directly references the Scoblegate incident! That is a head-scratcher!

Updates:

One, I’d love to hear Dare Obasanjo’s perspective on this. A refresher on his position on this issue as of last January.

Two, check out the comment on TechCrunch from Facebook’s privacy officer, Chris Kelly. While he corrects a few things, he does not deny that they are sharing email addresses with Microsoft.

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Google Becomes OpenID Provider; Plaxo and Zoho Among First Live Sites

Plaxo Signin Screen

What a week for OpenID and the opening up of the Social Web! Following Monday’s big announcement of Microsoft about to become an OpenID provider, today Google announced that it has actually become one (for real), with several sites are already live, accepting Google account credentials for signup and sign in, including Plaxo and Zoho. Google’s rollout is a very big deal for OpenID. Why? 

Like many promising technologies, OpenID has long suffered from the “chicken and egg” problem. Why should any site wrestle with the complexities of becoming a “relying party” (a site that accepts OpenID) if very few mainstream users have an OpenID and know how to use it? And, conversely, if there are very few relying parties out there, why should a mainstream Internet player, such as Google or Microsoft, rush to become a Provider?

The lineup of current (or soon to launch) OpenID Providers now includes, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, and MySpace. And we should be able to demonstrate in the coming weeks that second-generation implementations, like what Google is launching with today (and extending soon with Portable Contacts), actually reduce the friction for onboarding new users. The result should be a massive adoption wave for OpenID all over the web. If your competitor’s OpenID-based onboarding of new users has a much smaller dropoff rate than yours, you will find yourself wanting to come up to speed quickly on how to become a relying party, too.

One of the coolest things in the official blogpost for the announcement is what is coming down the pike:

Google is also working with the open source community on ways to combine the OAuth and OpenID protocol so a website can not only request the user’s identity and e-mail address, but can at the same time request access to information available via OAuth-enabled APIs such as Google Data APIs as well as standard data formats such as Portable Contacts and OpenSocial REST APIs. In the future, this should allow a website to immediately provide a much more streamlined, personalized and socially relevant experience for users when they log in to trusted websites.

This combined “Open Stack” approach will fix so much of what is currently broken.

The New "Open Stack"

Today, every time you go to use a new website, you have to give the site your email address and choose a password; you have to upload a photo and fill out the same profile info you’ve done dozens of times before; and, you’ll probably be encouraged to import your address book and invite your friends. The new Open Stack approach can take almost all of the friction out of that process. OpenID lets you signup with existing credentials. XRDS-simple lets the site discover where you keep your data. OAuth allows you to grant restricted access to just that data (without handing over the full keys to your account). And Portable Contacts standardizes how the site can pull in the people data that you want to share, including data from your profile, your friends list, and your address book. And that can all be done in a couple of clicks, with you in control.

These are exciting times, indeed. Congrats to the Google team! 

As has become the standard for just about any “open” launch, Plaxo is among the first live, with Joseph Smarr coding away feverishly in the night. Here’s his post on the launch at the official Plaxo blog. Joseph is also quoted in the Google blogpost:

Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect at Plaxo says, “It’s great to see Google become an Open ID provider in addition to supporting OAuth, which we already use. We are thrilled to be among the first sites to allow users to login with their Google Accounts. This is going to be great for users, Plaxo and the web.”

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Breaking News: Microsoft Becomes OpenID Provider

In a blogpost that just went live, Microsoft announced that they are ready to roll on the OpenID front, becoming a provider:

Beginning today, Windows Live™ ID is publicly committing to support the OpenID digital identity framework with the announcement of the public availability of a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the Windows Live ID OpenID Provider. You will soon be able to use your Windows Live ID account to sign in to any OpenID Web site!

This is a Big Deal for opening up the Social Web. Microsoft is joining other large providers, including Yahoo and AOL. And more are on the way, based on who attended the OpenID UX Summit last week (and what they said and demoed there). Even the New York Times is talking about it.

If it hasn’t been clear yet, it should become clear soon that we will exit 2008 with OpenID having moved from “promising” to a vital part of the mainstream Internet experience.

Oh, and be sure to check out Dare Obasanjo’s post on the news, that includes a link to a screencast from Angus Logan. (Dare and Angus are both great “open” advocates within Microsoft.) Congrats, guys! Always great to see the open champions succeed in steering the strategies of the biggest of companies. Oh, and clearly props should go to Mike Jones, who was a key champion of OpenID at Microsoft, as I am reminded by Scott Kveton in the post over at ReadWriteWeb:

“It’s a big deal for OpenID because we’re seeing Microsoft ship code,” said Scott Kveton, chair of the OpenID Foundation. “This is Microsoft putting their money where their mouth is. And it’s due in no small part to Mike Jones, who has been working diligently to promote OpenID within Microsoft. I’m enormously excited to see this happening.

TechCrunch now has a piece up with additional coverage

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Dare to be Open?

This week, influential blogger (and Microsoft employee) Dare Obasanjo kicked up a little controversy with a post he did on Portable Contacts, entitled The Portable Contacts API: Killing the Password Anti-Pattern Once and For All. It is a largely positive piece, making the case for why Portable Contacts makes sense:

The…problem…is that each site that provides an address book or social graph API is reinventing the wheel both with regards to the delegated auth model they implement and the actual API for retrieving a user’s contacts. This means that social networking sites that want to implement a contact import feature have to support a different API and delegated authorization model for each service they want to talk to even though each API and delegated auth model effectively does the same thing.

However, the piece closes with a critique of the process by which Portable Contacts and other open-spec building block are coming into existence:

If anything, I’m concerned by the growing number of interdependent specs that seem poised to have a significant impact on the Web and yet are being defined outside of formal standards bodies in closed processes funded by big companies. For example, about half of the references in the Portable Contacts API specs are to IETF RFCs while the other half are to specs primarily authored by Google and Yahoo! employees outside of any standards body (OpenSocial, OAuth, OpenSearch, XRDS-Simple, etc).

The Gillmor Gang responded by having Chris Messina, one of the key players in the open-spec movement, on as a special guest.

Not surprisingly, we waded in, too, on our weekly show, The Social Web TV. We brought on special guest, Kaliya Hamlin, a.k.a. “Identity Woman,” a facilitator of the open process and key events, like the upcoming Internet Identity Workshop. In the episode, we make sure to point out the positive involvement of Microsoft in the open process to develop the Portable Contacts API. Check it out:

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Live Blogging from the Portable Contacts Summit

The much-anticipated Portable Contacts Summit has kicked off, with folks from companies large and small and representatives of various open-spec communities. Joseph Smarr of Plaxo is leading the opening session and is going through a bunch of demos of working code.

Some quotes:

“The Portable Contacts train has left the station, and it’s a bullet train.”

“I’ve got more demos than I have Firefox tabs.”

“One good pipe deserves another.”

Joseph is demoing the power of having technical alignment between Portable Contacts and OpenSocial RESTFul APIs. What that means is that any site that is OpenSocial compliant will be Portable Contacts compliant — without having to do any additional work!

Folks in attendance include people who work at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, Plaxo, Six Apart, Seesmic, JanRain, Skydeck, ShopIt, Current.TV, Interscope Records, and more. Today’s event is hosted by MySpace.

12:00 Joseph demoing interop between Plaxo and MySpace.
12:05 Now a demo of JanRain’s myOpenID with support for Portable Contacts
12:07 Now on to Google, another instance of compliance via OpenSocial RESTful APIs
12:08 iGoogle, GMail, and Orkut (all leveraging the same backend)
12:09 Brian Ellin of JanRain about to do a demo of an end-user application
12:11 Brain implemented Portable Contacts last night in Ruby

lunch break

1:00 About to resume. Saw amazing discussions over lunch. I won’t name names, but some would be shocked by the various pairings of competitors breaking bread together
1:15 Joseph leading a deep dive on the spec. Lots of questions, discussion.
1:30 Lots of great questions and discussion about OAuth and XRDS-Simple
3:00 Wow! Just barely made it all the way through the spec. Impressive. Everyone is fried.
3:30 Unconference phase now, but really informal; organically forming conversation circles.
4:15 About to do the next steps and wrap up

Kevin Marks, of Google, is doing a nice job live tweeting the event. He’s @kevinmarks on Twitter.

UPDATE:

Great posts from the team at ShopIt and from data portability maven Daniela Barbosa.

And another fine post from the godfather of open, Marc Canter.

Here are a few photos so far:

Spec-compliant name tag

Joseph Smarr kicks off the Summit

Around the room

Brian from JanRain

Brian of JanRain and Joseph of Plaxo

Portable Contacts deep dive

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State of the Web 2.0 Union

Joseph Smarr and Pete Cashmore
Caption: Joseph Smarr and Pete Cashmore “Partying Like it’s 1999″

I’m back in the office after two action-packed days and evenings in San Francisco for the annual Web 2.0 Expo. It was a huge gathering at an historic point. Are we on the cusp of the open Social Web or the brink of a “nuclear winter” — or both?

I loved this quip in a piece by CNET’s Caroline McCarthy regarding a pre-launch startup, Chi.mp, co-hosting an open bar party with Mashable:

“Amid the drunken revelry and pulsing electronic music, one prominent tech-industry veteran at the party was asked exactly what Chi.mp is. ‘I’ll tell you what Chi.mp is. It’s venture money getting set on fire,’ the jaded observer replied. Surveying the buoyant crowd, he added, ‘This feels a little like 1999.'”

But over-the-top partying aside, the vibe for me was tectonic. I could feel the strain of enormous tension built up along the traditional intersections of the industry’s continents. Microsoft introduces and demonstrated their bold “Mesh” initiative, which pits their cloud computing against Google’s. Yahoo! announced a sweeping makeover as on open platform, but is fighting for its independence from an unsolicited takeover bid by Microsoft. Will Yahoo! have the time to see its open efforts blossom. And if they become a part of Microsoft, how will such efforts “mesh”?

Tim O’Reilly reminded us all that there is something really big going on, and that we should not get distracted by the business headlines. I found his talk inspirational, and I agree with his thesis that the Web, especially the Social Web, is a driver of change in human capability that will have as dramatic an impact as the development of writing or the creation of cities. “Are we done yet?” he asked the crowd, with the fervor of a preacher or Presidential candidate. “No!” came the response.

And in what was one of the most well-received talks of the Expo, here Joseph Smarr of Plaxo articulates with great clarity one area in which we clearly are not “done yet,” deploying a new service layer that will remove the friction of the Social Web:

Here’s one of the key slides from Joseph’s talk that shows the Social Web services layer that we believe is about to emerge:

Emerging service layer for the Social Web

I also had the privilege of having meetings with most of the big companies, and I heard things that would have seemed impossible even a year ago. The commitment to opening up, to open standards, like OpenID, and to interoperability, is really quite amazing. 2008 is going to be an historic year, for sure.

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(Almost) Live from the Data Sharing Workshop

Picture 009

The Data Sharing Workshop is getting into gear this morning at SFSU. About 50 people in the room, representing a wide variety of companies and technolgies. Kickoff speakers have included folks from Google, Microsoft, Plaxo, and SixApart.

Here’s a video of Joseph Smarr of Plaxo trying to frame the key problems that might be worked on:

And here’s a picture including three “share bears” (Chris Saad, David Recordon, and Joseph Smarr, plus Kevin Marks of Google):

Picture 013

UPDATE:

Here’s a nice shot from Marc Canter’s fiery kickoff talk:

"Free the data!"

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