Tag Archives: Plaxo

Joseph Smarr at Web 2.0 on the New “Open Stack”

Joseph Smarr, Plaxo’s chief platform architect, and de facto leader of the Portable Contacts initiative, gave a talk today at the Web 2.0 conference in New York. Entitled “Tying it all together; Implementing the Open Web,” it was a rallying cry for developers to jump in and get working on the new “open stack” of OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, XRDS-Simple, and Portable Contacts. See converage from attendees Kris Jordan and Steve Kuhn (who quips about Joseph, “Dude talks fast”)!

Joseph asserted that the industry has now come together around a common vision for the future of the Social Web — a vision that abandons the walled garden model in favor of a new services layer that interconnects social hubs with the rest of the web. The service layer is comprised of Identity Providers, Social Graph Providers, and Content Aggregators:

A Common Vision for the Future of the Social Web

And, indeed, that is the vision behind the strategies we see from Google (with Friend Connect; which launched for real today), Plaxo (with Pulse), MySpace (with Data Availability), Yahoo (with Y!OS), and, yes, even Facebook, too (with Connect).

Joseph goes on to observe that there are two pathways to that vision, one built on Facebook’s proprietary stack and the pathway chosen by MySpace, Google, Yahoo, Plaxo, and many others, built on the new open stack:

The New "Open Stack" for the Social Web

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Thanks, SGI, for the Gift of OpenGL!

I am so pleased to see SGI in a good news story today, after all the years of decline and sadness. Apparently there’s been a problem brewing with the license under which SGI was making OpenGL available, as in it was a license that was “accepted by neither the Free Software Foundation (FSF) nor the Open Source Initiative,” according to Bruse Byfield of Linux.com. The problem has now been resolved through a new license. Details can be found in a press release from SGI. The new license was applauded by both the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Khronos Group, an organization developing royalty free standards around OpenGL.

I’ve been thinking about OpenGL recently, as it helped introduce me to open standards, years ago when I worked at SGI. Back in late 1995, after I persuaded SGI to become the first licensee of Java, I tried (and failed) to convince Sun to follow SGI’s lead to make Java a truly open standard, rather than a Sun proprietary thing, with heavy licensing.

Now, as we work to solidify and gain traction for a “new open stack” for the emerging Social Web, I continue to be inspired by the bold idea behind turning SGI’s proprietary “GL” (Graphic Library) and into OpenGL.

The new open stack is comprised of OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, XRDS-Simple, and Portable Contacts. Projects as diverse as MySpace Data Availability, Y!OS, Google Friend Connect, and Plaxo Pulse now share a common vision (of an open interoperable Social Web) and are being built out on this common set of open spec building blocks. Each company can innovate faster by not having to waste development resources on creating one-off proprietary APIs. Each company can see more rapid uptake by developers, since those developers can write once and have there code work in more places. And each company can be part of the virtuous cycle of acceleration by contributing code to the open stack.

Exciting times!

The New "Open Stack" for the Social Web

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Plaxo Becomes “Portable Contacts” Provider, Helping Vet the Draft Spec

Portable Contacts deep dive

As a follow-on to last week’s Portable Contacts Summit, Plaxo has updated its API site, de-emphasizing the company’s proprietary APIs in favor of Portable Contacts and the other associated “open stack” building blocks (OpenID, OAuth, microformats, OpenSocial, etc.). While the spec still remains in a draft state, the community agreed that it is time to start getting multiple live implementations up, as part of the process of vetting the current (and any future) draft. Only in that way can there be a fully-informed decision process to declare a final 1.0.

Joseph Smarr, who is Plaxo’s Chief Platform Architect and the de facto leader of the grass roots Portable Contacts initiative, blogged about the update to the API site in a piece entitled “Portable Contacts is Now Plaxo’s Primary API“:

We’ve revamped Plaxo’s developer section to focus primarily on the open building blocks we’re using. Starting now, developers should consider OAuth and Portable Contacts the primary way to access profile, address book, and pulse connections data from Plaxo. The idea is simple: once you write code to work with Plaxo, you can use that exact same code on a variety of other sites. And if you’ve already integrated with one of those sites, you can start working with Plaxo right away. After all, one of the main drivers to create Portable Contacts was the pain developers face having to write custom, one-off API implementations against every site they deal with. So we think it’s time to start living the good life, where common specs mean less writing code and more interoperability with more sites.

Given the strong support demonstrated at the Summit, we expect to see other implementations in the wild soon. And since Portable Contacts is all about enabling interoperability between Social Web services, it is critically important that we test a variety of cross-site scenarios live before declaring this or a future draft to be “1.0”.

One really cool thing is that all of the companies that fully implement the new OpenSocial RESTful APIs will be Portable Contacts compliant “out of the box” — without having to write any additional code. That’s because the Portable Contacts community worked with the OpenSocial community to technically align the two specs. So, don’t be surprised to see Portable Contacts support coming soon to some really big Internet players. (Hint: Google and MySpace had live demos at last week’s Summit.)

I am starting to feel very confident in my prediction for 2008! 🙂

If you are a developer who wants to jump in and get started on Portable Contacts, head over to Plaxo’s just-updated API site.

Update: I just also got a link to a live Portable Contacts demo from JanRain, which ties together OpenID and Plaxo’s implementation of Portable Contacts. Very cool.

[Reminder/disclosure: I work for Plaxo.]

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Live from the PortableContacts Hackathon

Inspired by the great energy at the PortableContacts Hackathon. About 15 folks, passionate about fleshing out the open-spec building blocks and putting them into action. I think they’ll be some great demos tomorrow at the PortableContacts Summit!

Thanks to David Recordon and Six Apart for hosting and to Joseph Smarr of Plaxo for leading the event.

From the PortableContacts Hackathon

From the PortableContacts Hackathon

From the PortableContacts Hackathon

From the PortableContacts Hackathon

PortableContacts Portable Keg

PortableContacts Hackathon

Kevin Marks, Patrick Chanezon, Joseph Smarr

PortableContacts Hackathon

PortableContacts Hackathon

PortableContacts Hackathon

PortableContacts Hackathon

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David has a nice writeup on the Hackathon at O’Reilly Radar.

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A Big Bang for the Social Web

It’s certainly a big week, what with the Hadron Collider finally coming on line, raising existential risk questions for the planet, as physicists attempt to recreate the conditions immediately after the Big Bang that gave birth to our universe. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, developers are attempting to give birth to a truly open Social Web, by stitching together for the first time the open spec building blocks: OpenID, XRDS-Simple, OAuth, and PortableContacts.

You can participate yourself at the PortableContacts Hackathon this evening, hosted by SixApart. Or you can get the quick overview in this video podcast I did with Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr.

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Pure-Play Aggregators: A Traffic Update

Compete released the stats for August, with mixed news for the pure-play Social Web Aggregators. Plaxo continued to see nice growth, clocking 244% year-over-year growth and 11% month-over month growth in monthly unique visitors. FriendFeed, on the other hand, experienced a bit of a stall, with a tiny drop in monthly unique visitors compared with July. SocialThing (recently acquired by AOL) got a traffic increase from the news of its acquisition, but total monthly unique visitors remains under 100,000. Iminta’s traffic was too low to track.

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Can the pure-play Social Web Aggregators grow fast and long enough to achieve escape velocity before the big former walled garden services, like Facebook and MySpace, re-invent themselves into true Social Web Aggregators?

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Live from Facebook Developer Garage in Palo Alto

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The venerable old Blue Chalk is bursting at the seams with a swelling crowd of developers who have gathered for the Facebook Developer Garage event focused on Facebook Connect. I’m here with Joseph Smarr, also of Plaxo, and hanging out with David Recordon and with Dave Morin and our many Facebook friends. I also have with me tshirts that say, “Plaxo and Facebook are now in an open relationship”. If you ask me for one at the event, I’ll give it to you!

This is a follow-up event to the recent F8, where Connect debuted. Here’s our coverage from F8:

I’ll add to this post as the event rolls.

Josh Elman is opening up the event, saying it’s gonna be a talk from Dave Morin talking first, followed by demos, including David Recordon for SixApart, followed by CBS and RedBull, and then a WordPress plug-in developed internally at Facebook. And here comes Dave…

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Dave sharing a vision of the Social Web built on three key elements: identity, friends, and feeds. As readers of this site know, I couldn’t agree more! Check out our Social Web ecosystem charts in this post, which we developed for Joseph Smarr’s talk at Web 2.0 this year.

Me in the t-shirt:

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A really cool shot of Mike Vernal, “bathing in the code”:

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The Rapid Rise of FriendFeed and Plaxo’s Pulse

There is a sea change underway in social networking. If there were any doubt that we are moving from the “walled garden” phase to a new era defined by interoperability between aggregation hubs and the rest of the Social Web, recent moves by Facebook and MySpace should erase any doubt.

The biggest winners of the future will be the services that do the best job of harnessing the power of the virtuous cycle of social discovery at the core of “Social Web Aggregation.” Let’s take a look at how two pioneers of the new model are faring, Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed…

Before looking at the numbers, it’s important to remind ourselves that last summer, walled gardens were the future. Plaxo wasn’t yet in the social networking space. And FriendFeed hadn’t yet launched their service. It was almost exactly a year ago that Plaxo launched Pulse, the first Social Web Aggregator. [Disclosure/reminder: I work for Plaxo, but you already knew that.] One of the key questions was, “Are enough people using multiple user-generated content sites that one can build a thriving service based on ‘lifestreaming’ the activity streams from those services?”

So, let’s look at the July numbers from Compete, which just became available within the last 48 hours. [One caveat, every third party traffic tracking service has it’s limitations; Compete is looking just at U.S. traffic and does not have visibility to activity originating from client software.] How are the two most prominent pure-play Social Web Aggregators faring? In a word, “thriving.”

Plaxo and FriendFeed both posted greater that 20% month-over-month growth from June to July, and Plaxo clocked 225% year-over-year growth in monthly unique visitors. (Year-over-year data for FriendFeed not yet available, but coming soon.) The slope of Plaxo’s rise is slightly higher than FriendFeed’s, but that is not as significant as the clear sign that both services are surging.

I am an enthusiastic user of both services and I don’t see them as competing with each other. Quite the contrary. I love using FriendFeed for staying on top of what the early adopter and influencer crowd are buzzing about in public conversations. And I love using Plaxo for private sharing and conversing with highly granular control of what I share with whom.

As a footnote, the rising “aggregation” tide is *not* floating all boats equally. Latecomers, with little obvious differentiation, such as Iminta and SocialThing, have generated so little traction as to barely show up in Compete.

Congratulations to Plaxo (who pulled off a re-invention of the company and has managed to execute well through a change of ownership) and to FriendFeed (who have entered a hot space with really great focus and execution). Game on!

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Four-Month Update on How I Use Social Media

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Back in April, inspired by a post from Louis Gray, My Social Media Consumption Workflow, I wrote a piece, entitled Evolution of My Social Media Interactions, which sought to capture a snapshot of the set of services I was using then for interacting with social media. It was already clear then that I would need to revisit this subject from time-to-time:

Okay, enough for now. Who knows how I’ll be using all this stuff next month, or which new tool will get added to my kit?

Back in April, I focused on “how I start my day” and talked about:

I fire up the browser, and open up a series of tabs: my blog, Techmeme, Twitter search engine Summize, Plaxo Pulse, Twitter.

What’s changed since then? A few things. First of all, I have far less of a notion of “starting my day” with social media. Back then, I think I was viewing this a bit like a substitute for the morning paper. Sure, I checked on things throughout the day, but not obsessively. Now, I’ve gone from a morning dip into the social media pool to swimming in it morning, noon, and night.

That said, what sites get tab real estate in my browser is still an important indicator of where my social media consumption is heading. My current lineup is Plaxo Pulse (reminder/disclosure: I work for Plaxo), FriendFeed, Summize (which is now Twitter search; set to the query “plaxo”), Twitter, and Techmeme.

Truth be told, I’m using Twitter less and FriendFeed more. (FriendFeed got a mention in my post in April, but had not yet risen to “tab status.”) FriendFeed and Twitter Search help me as a marketer know what is on the minds of an influential demographic of early adopters. There are many folks I follow directly there — and many, many more I encounter based on searches. And, of course, this sort of social discovery provides opportunities for me to jump in to either start a conversation or contribute to one already going.

One question that I am often asked is, “How do you use FriendFeed and Plaxo? Why both?” That’s actually really easy. I use FriendFeed to track and engage in public discourse, and I use Plaxo Pulse to share content and conversations privately with my family, my friends, and my coworkers, and to stay better connected with my extended business network.

On the production side, I am mindful that many bloggers are struggling to find the time to keep producing good long-form content in a 140-character attention span world. I, too, am not immune, and I find that my posting frequency here has dropped since April considerably. That said, I find that Plaxo and FriendFeed are *both* becoming good drivers of readership.

Perhaps the biggest change in my engagement with social media is my jump into video. Together with Joseph Smarr and David Recordon, I’ve launched an Internet TV show called The Social Web TV. We’ve launched using Viddler for hosting and streaming the video, and the blog is on TypePad from SixApart. It is really invigorating to tackle the challenge of producing a great show every week. (Shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble who inspired me to take the leap.)

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My Big Prediction for 2008: A Mid-Year Check-In

Will 2008 be the year in which we shift from the “walled garden” model of social networking to a more open and Internet-oriented approach of the “Social Web”?

That was certainly my prediction in a December, 2007 post, entitled Why I Love Facebook and a Prediction for 2008. What I said then:

Mark Zuckerberg and team have built a really great experimental testbed that shows us what can happen when you mash up applications and the “social graph.” When you bring who-you-know to a web application, it gets turbocharged and transformed. It’s so exciting to watch Facebook’s innovation, from the News Feed, to the F8 platform play, and now to the bold (albeit controversial) Beacon initiative.

But what happens as these ideas get turned into capabilities of the web itself, thanks to a combination of community efforts and commercial efforts like Google’s OpenSocial? Here’s my prediction: in 2008, we will see the true beginnings of the “Social Web,” as open and vibrant as when the first incarnation of the Web that emerged in 1994 and 1995.

In Internet time, that prediction was ages ago. Things have been happening so rapidly that I confess I missed the literal halfway mark. But before the month of July is finished, I thought I should take stock of my prediction and see whether I am likely to be proven correct (or whether I need to begin hoping for a year-end miracle).

So, what has transpired since my prediction? Here are some of the major milestones on the road from last year to the Social Web:

– January 3: “Scoblegate” kicks off the debate over who owns your friends list
– January 8: Google, Facebook, and Plaxo joined the Data Portability Working Group
– January 17: Yahoo! gave support to OpenID, a “massive win for the project
– February 1: Google launches Brad Fitzpatrick’s Social Graph API
– March 5: Google launches Contacts Data address book API
– March 19: The Economist makes opening the Social Web a mainstream topic
– March 25: Microsoft launches the Live Contacts address book API with Facebook
– April 15: Facebook totally “gets” the Social Web; becomes an “aggregator”
– April 24: Joseph Smarr articulates a comprehensive vision for the Social Web
– May 8: MySpace announces “Data Availability,” kicking off an “open” wave”
– May 9: Facebook announces “Facebook Connect,” saying “watch this space”
– May 12: Google launches “Friend Connect,” to “socially-enable” any website
– May 15: Joseph Smarr discusses Portable Contacts initiative publicly
– June 4: Yahoo! launches their address book API
– June 11: A “Social Graph Provider” was spotted in the wild
– June 26: MySpace ships Data Availability
– July 11: Joseph, David, and I launch Episode 1 of “The Social Web TV”

From my perspective in the middle of all of this is that the pace is picking up. I think all of the major players are now racing to “out-open” each other. Why? Because we’ve all see this movie before, and we know how it ends. And nobody wants to end up as the Compuserve or Prodigy of the 21st Century.

So, I’m cautiously optimistic that my prediction for 2008 will come true. In fact, I think the next few weeks will give us all a reason to believe. Stay tuned.

Also, if I missed anything on my list that you think is an important milestone, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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