nicolas leroy

Data portability and distributed social networks: concepts that could be applied to social shopping

December 26, 2007

Every time I hear about a new or emerging social shopping site, I usually repeat the same operations:

Ok, I’m not the average user, as I don’t think a lot of shoppers use more than 2 or 3 social shopping destinations. However, who knows which new sites will emerge and gain traction in ’08? For any user (average or advanced), the question “how to export all your data from your current social shopping site to the new hype one” can become a tricky one. In reaction to the success of MySpace or Facebook social networks and the concerns regarding privacy and openness of those sites, two concepts – data portability and distributed social networking – are emerging to avoid data being stuck into those silos.

The first concept – data portability – is all about developing open standards to export / import data from one site to another, including authentication, attention data (what you are interesting in), profile definition and relationships between people. If some of those open standards have yet to be invented, some of them are becoming more and more popular: OpenID for user authentication and RSS for syndicated contents have almost become mainstream in ’07. Some others have been drafted but haven’t been widely adopted yet; I’m thinking about the hListing microformat for shopping applications for instance, that could be an easy format to exchange listings between shopping sites.

The second concept – distributed social networking – is more linked to the privacy concern: how could you trust a site that hosts all your personal data? Why would you invest time on a page that you don’t really own? Also, how to manage / synch your data on various networks (for myself, LinkedIn, Facebook, + social shopping sites). Some projects are trying to see how a personal blog could become your page on any social network. When social shopping sites allow you putting some widgets on your personal blog, it’s a first step towards this vision of a distributed social network.

To illustrate the benefits of those concepts applied to social shopping, here are a few examples:

And you, do you believe in those concepts for the future of social shopping?