Data Portability: Worthy Aim, Misleading Term

Given that you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ve created profiles and network links across a bewildering variety of web services. You may feel that you shouldn’t have to recreate this data: you should be able to access existing copies of it, and otherwise have control of it.

That’s the problem that the Data Portability Workgroup exists to address. I applaud the aim of the DPW, while wishing it had a more appropriate name.

Data portability suggests to me that, if I have data in, say, Facebook, and I don’t like Facebook’s policies and practices around that data, I can take (port) it elsewhere. But that wouldn’t really help me if my friends’ data are still in the Facebook silo.

So I’m glad to say that the DPW’s aim goes beyond this. I think that the best characterization of what the DPW is up to comes from Duncan Riley.

The DataPortability Workgroup is actively working to create the ‘DataPortability Reference Design’ to document the best practices for integrating existing open standards and protocols for maximum interoperability (and here’s the key area) to allow users to access their friends and media across all the applications, social networking sites and widgets that implement the design into their systems.

So it’s particularly good news that there are people from Google (Brad Fitzpatrick) and Facebook (Benjamin Ling) on the DPW. It is, of course, a long way from people joining a workgroup to that workgroup developing a reference design to that design being implemented.

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