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 NYTimes.com over to the Plaxo network. The feature was implemented via the TimesPeople APIs, without the NYTimes.com 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.
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!