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article imageFacebook Follows MySpace Lead, Allowing Members to Export Data to Other Sites

By Chris Hogg     May 10, 2008 in Internet
Social networks are virtual gold mines of personal information. Sites like Facebook know more about you than your family probably does. They're now letting members take information with them outside of the network, to other places on the Web.
Digital Journal -- On Thursday, MySpace announced a data-portability initiative and partnership with Yahoo, Twitter and eBay, allowing members to import or export their social networking information onto third-party sites. Signing up at Twitter, for example, you would be able to click one button to import all your information rather than having to fill it all out again on yet another site.
Proponents praise the idea as a time-saver (you don't have to enter your information into 10 different websites) and highlight the potential for MySpace to grow outside its planted roots, while critics say this initiative brings in potential for abuse because hackers could (in theory) get your personal information off multiple sites rather than just one.
Not one to lag behind MySpace, Facebook has announced the same thing. The only difference: It was a day later and had none of the glare and glitter of the MySpace announcement. Instead, it was posted in the company's developer blog.
Facebook is the No. 1 photo-sharing tool and sixth most trafficked website in the world according to the site, so its hopes its new "Facebook Connect" initiative will help push it that extra little mile online.
Facebook's senior platform manager, Dave Morin, says Facebook Connect will launch in the next few weeks and give members the ability to use their Facebook account info (including profile, photos, friends, groups, events, etc.) on other social sites.
After authenticating with a partner website, Morin writes that users will be able to "...take their friends with them wherever they go on the Web. Developers will be able to add rich social context to their websites. Developers will even be able to dynamically show which of their Facebook friends already have accounts on their sites."
Facebook recognizes the fear of showing your friends or personal information on third-party sites, so the company says its privacy settings will "follow" you wherever you go online. Detail beyond that is scarce, but Facebook says it will handle the authentication process so data will be kept private and secure.
Data is also real-time, so if you update your profile pic or friendship status on Facebook, it will be updated immediately on external websites.
As the Web evolves into being a more social and open space, closed sites run the risk of eventually being irrelevant because they are guarded. Opening up to allow embedding on third-party sites dramatically changes the profile and potential future of the company, as it will now be leaving bread crumbs all over the Web that lead back to the site.
"We believe the next evolution of data portability is about much more than data," Morin wrote on the site. "It's about giving users the ability to take their identity and friends with them around the Web, while being able to trust that their information is always up to date and always protected by their privacy settings."
Unlike MySpace, Facebook has not announced any partners with its announcement. Looks like MySpace caught the world by surprise, Facebook had a meeting and someone at the company said "Damn, we better announce the same thing."
However, in the mock-up on the site that explains how it works, social bookmarking site Digg is displayed so one would assume the site has something planned, and it's going after one of the most active and "viral-causing" audiences on the Web.
More about Facebook, Myspace, Data, Member, Profiles
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