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December 10, 2010

A standards-based, open and privacy-aware social Web

One of the things we did with our last tranche of Eduserv Foundation project funding (a couple of years ago now) was to fund Harry Halpin of Edinburgh University to work on what became the W3C Social Web Incubator Group. The result of that group's work has recently been published, A Standards-based, Open and Privacy-aware Social Web:

The Social Web is a set of relationships that link together people over the Web. The Web is an universal and open space of information where every item of interest can be identified with a URI. While the best known current social networking sites on the Web limit themselves to relationships between people with accounts on a single site, the Social Web should extend across the entire Web. Just as people can call each other no matter which telephone provider they belong to, just as email allows people to send messages to each other irrespective of their e-mail provider, and just as the Web allows links to any website, so the Social Web should allow people to create networks of relationships across the entire Web, while giving people the ability to control their own privacy and data. The standards that enable this should be open and royalty-free. We present a framework for understanding the Social Web and the relevant standards (from both within and outside the W3C) in this report, and conclude by proposing a strategy for making the Social Web a "first-class citizen" of the Web.

This is a great piece of work, not just in terms of the final document but also in the building of a community around it. Edited by Harry Halpin and Mischa Tuffield (Garlik), the document itself covers a broad sweep of social Web activity and standards, including areas such as identity, profiles, social media, privacy and activity (outlining scenarios, issues and standards related to each) and also addressing accessibility and business considerations before making a series of recommendations for further work that needs to be undertaken.

Well worth reading. I'm proud to say that Eduserv funding helped bring it to fruition.

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