There are reports this morning from TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, CNET’s Caroline McCarthy, and Mashable’s Adam Ostrow that MySpace will launch “Data Availability” today, delivering the code to back up their hastily launched press release of a few weeks ago.
It’s great to see the rush now to deliver various initiatives to tear down the walls that keep users from their data. Google has Friend Connect live on several sites in partnership with Plaxo. MySpace is making Data Availability available to all developers this afternoon. And Facebook is generally expected to deliver on the promise of Facebook Connect later this summer (perhaps at F8).
That said, I don’t believe the initial implementation of MySpace Data Availability will deliver on what those of us pushing to open up the Social Web are hoping for. The restrictions on participating third parties are so severe as to be impractical; specifically, caching of the data is prohibited. Rather than the walled garden castle lowering the drawbridge, this is more like opening the curtains.
What users should demand is convenient, secure, and unrestricted access to their data. That means the ability to have full interoperability between any of the tools and services they use, including operations like import, sync, and delete.
Service operators, if you love your users’ data, set it free. If they love you, they will not leave. Instead, they will appreciate the convenience of interoperability that you are enabling.
UPDATE: I recommend the analysis by David Chartier over at Ars Technica.
Plaxo is no better, John.
“You may use the Plaxo Web APIs if you are an individual or an entity, provided that you abide by these Terms and Conditions at all times and that you use the Plaxo Web APIs solely for your personal, non-commercial purposes.”
It’s really total hypocrisy.
I totally disagree, Johnny. Plaxo offers users a wide variety of ways to move their data around, including import; export; sync with Outlook, Mac Address Book, Yahoo!, AOL, etc.; a lifestreaming widget; and RSS feeds. We also have an address book widget that empowers developers. And, yes, we also have APIs that we can offer to partners. And there’s more to come. So, no, I would certainly not agree that we are hypocritical on this topic!
Data portability hinges on programmatic access to my, the member’s, data. Plaxo simply does not provide that. So based on what you’re saying, if MySpace or Facebook offered a CSV file export – they would have accomplished this “data portability zen” you frequently speak of.
Plaxo is just as proprietary as every other “social network”. From Plaxo, I’m hearing a lot of barking – but no biting. Actions speak louder than words.
“What users should demand is convenient, secure, and unrestricted access to their data. That means the ability to have full interoperability between any of the tools and services they use, including operations like import, sync, and delete.
Service operators, if you love your users’ data, set it free. If they love you, they will not leave. Instead, they will appreciate the convenience of interoperability that you are enabling.” – John McCrea
Practice what you preach, otherwise it is hypocrisy.
Johnny-not sure what you’re talking about; Plaxo has full APIs for developers that many apps and services are currently consuming. Like LinkedIn and others, we ask that you come talk to us first if you’re making a commercial tool with the APIs, but we’re very easy and reasonable to work with. And all of our sync plugins and website consume those same APIs, so that should give you an idea of their rich capabilities.
I do agree with you however that our APIs are proprietary and custom, since there’s currently no alternative. That’s why a bunch of us service providers are working on standards for accessing contact info, e.g. http://portablecontacts.net
@Joseph – What if I wrote a better address book? More value. Better features. Problem is, if I make money off of it – it’s considered “commercial” and I fall under the TOS restriction. I want to write a tool that drains people’s contacts out of Plaxo and into my address book. To quote John McCrea “if you love your users’ data, set it free”.
So you’re saying Plaxo…err…Comcast wouldn’t mind if I “loved your users and set them free”? If Plaxo adheres to the “Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web” (which I think they would – you helped author it) then this really would not be a problem after all, “the list of people they are connected to” is your address book data.
So am I getting a green light?
Proprietary in regards to the access of the API, not the format or the access mechanism. Like LinkedIn’s API is proprietary because it’s not accessible by “non-authorized” third parties.
Not trying to be difficult here, my contention lies with the Plaxo TOS and all the evangelism Plaxo does in regards to Data Portability. They seem at odds to me.
Johnny, no worries. I appreciate the dialogue. That particular TOS you saw is deserving of review, criticism, and revision. There are some updates coming, as Joseph indicates with his reference to the Portable Contacts initiative.
So, let me concede: Your point is taken. Plaxo has an opportunity to do a better job on the API front. Stay tuned.
Over at Plaxo, we are keenly interested in achieving the vision that I so passionately espouse here on my personal blog. Sometimes my rhetoric over here may run ahead of our shipping reality over there. And it’s certainly fair game for any of my readers to point that out.