Social graph portability with a simple rel=”me”

Brad Fitzpatrick’s Thoughts on the Social Graph few weeks ago ignited a spark in the blogosphere. The quest for a simple, neutral protocol for portability of your data (and relationships) and identity management is nothing new. Brad is able to explain the need clearly and he got a lot of attention because he is highly respected for having created very useful Free Software, for example LiveJournal software, and this is good. The mailing list he started for discussing this attracted a lot of minds in few days. Brad puts it like this:

There are an increasing number of new “social applications” as well as traditional application which either require the “social graph” or that could provide better value to users by utilizing information in the social graph. What I mean by “social graph” is a the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related, as Wikipedia describes and I talk about in more detail later. Unfortunately, there doesn’t exist a single social graph (or even multiple which interoperate) that’s comprehensive and decentralized. Rather, there exists hundreds of disperse social graphs, most of dubious quality and many of them walled gardens.

On the mailing list there were thousands of good comments and presentations of services. The one I’m linking here is Plaxo Online Identity Consolidator

At Plaxo, we believe strongly that users should have ownership, control, and portability of their profiles and friends list. No service you use should claim your data as their own and keep it trapped in their “walled garden”. We will continue to publish tools and articles here and on our blog to empower users and support a truly open social web.
An important aspect of the open social graph is being able to declare the different sites you use and tie them together. The easiest way to tell people—and computers—about the sites you use is to link from your home page, blog, and profile pages to the other sites you use. If you add rel=”me” to the link tag, it says “this is another site about me”. Many sites already do this, and services like wordpress make it easy to annotate your links like this.
Plaxo’s Online Identity Consolidator—which you can use here or download the source code and use yourself—starts with one of your web sites and crawls all the rel=”me” links to find the other web pages you want people to know about.

See how the Online Identity Consolidator works on my identity page ( All of this is made possible by a simple rel="me" added to the HTML link tag. But as usual the hard part is getting adoption …

Well, maybe the title is misleading, I’m not claiming that rel=”me” solves all the problems, simply that it is a simple idea with a lot of powerful and this is the correct road.

Also check A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web and the social network portability page collectively kept on the microformats wiki (microformats rock!)

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