Yesterday I was reading a nice post on data portability on Mashable. It was a guest post by Elias Bizannes, the chairperson and executive director of the DataPortability Project. Before I share my thoughts here is what data portability means (from the post).
Data Portability can be loosely described as the free flow of people’s personal information across the Internet(), within their control. It has now become a standard term in the Internet industry in the context of cloud computing, open standards and privacy.
Examples of data portability include:
- Being able to import all your social network connections, media and other data to another service with the click of a button.
- The ability to reuse your health records when visiting different doctors and jurisdictions.
- Not having to re-enter your credit card information when a service you use changes payment gateways.
You will realize the importance of data portability when you want to share the same data across networks. I face this situation often with this blog. I want to share my posts with friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter and my network on LinkedIn. But there is not easy way to do it.
I use a plugin (WPBook) to share on Facebook via an application. FeedBurner to share on Twitter. And have connected LinkedIn to my Twitter account to pull in all my updates.
Sometimes I want to upload the same photo to Flickr and Facebook but have to do it twice. It is my photo but I cannot share it across the two networks. These are some problems that data portability should be able to stop. The only way this is possible today is through public APIs that most of these networks expose. But that means we need to depend on apps that use these APIs to create a connection. And it is still difficult to selectively share data.
In an ideal world we would have a dashboard showing all our data in one place and share it across all our networks simultaneously and seamlessly. If we want to delete some information, we do it in one place and it is removed from everywhere.
So why do the networks not have a data portability policy in place today? It can only help them. The data is enriched with metadata not from one network but from all my networks. Win-win. Isn’t it? But data is the currency of social networks. Like cold hard cash is for the industrial economy. Data is the source of revenue. Data is the source of differentiation. At least that is the thinking.
In this way I feel this battle for data is similar to a price war in the offline world. Similarly as a price war reduces the industry profitability (case in point the Indian mobile telephony industry), this reluctance of data sharing is preventing the social networks from exploiting their true potential.
What are you thoughts? Do you think that a lack of data portability is stifling the innovation potential of social networks? Share any examples, for or against that you might have.