Building up a list of old school friends on one site while having all your holiday photos on another and a comprehensive list of favourite movies on yet another can frustrate anyone who needs to use several social networking sites to track all their contacts.
Every time you connect with someone new on yet another social site, there is the hassle of re-entering the same information over and over again. In other words: no data portability.
This may likely be solved in the near future because three big internet players Yahoo!, Google and MySpace have got together to form an organisation, the OpenSocial Foundation, which will ensure the development of applications which can be used across social networking sites.
OpenSocial was created by Google and is a set of programming tools developers can use to create web applications like the popular photo-sharing widget RockYou that is used on sites like Bebo and MySpace.
The foundation was created in a bid by members to keep OpenSocial completely neutral and to provide operational guidelines on issues that crop up when developing web applications: technology, documentation and IP, among others.
“OpenSocial has been a community-driven specification from the beginning,” said Joe Kraus, director of product management, Google.
“The formation of this foundation will ensure it remains so in perpetuity. Developers and websites should feel secure that OpenSocial will be forever free and open.”
Yahoo! is also a key member on the board of the OpenID Foundation for a single digital identity and works alongside Google, VeriSign, IBM and Microsoft in this capacity.
This gathering of big technology firms is certainly an opportunity to open up the web through data portability. However, it may also be drawing a line in the sand with Google, Yahoo! and MySpace on one side and the current, all-dominant and popular social networking site Facebook on the other.
While Facebook was the first social networking site to open its doors to web developers looking to create third-party applications like Scrabulous, it now remains closed in terms of taking content out of the site and importing it into others.
While Microsoft backs the OpenID concept, it is not involved in the OpenSocial Foundation, a predictable outcome considering it invested heavily in Facebook last year, paying out US$240m for a 1.9pc stake in the site.
By Marie Boran