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22 FEBRUARY 2014

An Introduction to the Federated Social Network

"To understand how federated social networking would be an improvement, we should understand how online social networking essentially works today. Right now, when you sign up for Facebook, you get a Facebook profile, which is a collection of data about you that lives on Facebook's servers. You can add words and pictures to your Facebook profile, and your Facebook profile can have a variety of relationships – it can be friends with other Facebook profiles, it can be a 'fan' of another Facebook page, or 'like' a web page containing a Facebook widget. Crucially, if you want to interact meaningfully with anyone else's Facebook profile or any application offered on the Facebook platform, you have to sign up with Facebook and conduct your online social networking on Facebook's servers, and according to Facebook's rules and preferences. (You can replace 'Facebook' with 'Orkut,' 'LinkedIn,' 'Twitter,' and essentially tell the same story.)

We've all watched the dark side of this arrangement unfold, building a sad catalog of the consequences of turning over data to a social networking company. The social networking company might cause you to overshare information that you don't want shared, or might disclose your information to advertisers or the government, harming your privacy. And conversely, the company may force you to undershare by deleting your profile, or censoring information that you want to see make it out into the world, ultimately curbing your freedom of expression online. And because the company may do this, governments might attempt to require them to do it, sometimes even without asking or informing the end–user.

How will federated social networks be different? The differences begin with the code behind online social networking. The computer code that gives you a Facebook profile is built in a closed way – it's proprietary and kept relatively secret by Facebook, so you have to go through Facebook to create, maintain, and interact with Facebook profiles or applications.

But federated social network developers are doing two things differently in order to build a new ecosystem. First, the leading federated social networking software is open–source: that means that anybody can download the source code, and use it to create and maintain social networking profiles for themselves and others. Second, the developers are simultaneously collaborating on a new common language, presumably seeking an environment where most or even all federated social networking profiles can talk to one another.

What will that likely mean in practice? To join a federated social network, you'll be able to choose from an array of 'profile providers,' just like you can choose an email provider. You will even be able to set up your own server and provide your social networking profile yourself. And in a federated social network, any profile can talk to another profile – even if it's on a different server.

Imagine the Web as an open sea. To use Facebook, you have to immigrate to Facebook Island and get a Facebook House, in a land with a single ruler. But the distributed social networks being developed now will allow you to choose from many islands, connected to one another by bridges, and you can even have the option of building your own island and your own bridges."

(Richard Esguerra, 21 March 21 2011, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

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TAGS

2011abstraction layeragency of access and engagementautonomy • centralised infrastructure • centralised platformcommon interfaceComputer Supported Cooperative Work • content distribution networks • data contextdecentralisation • decentralised architecture • decentralised infrastructure • distributed ecosystemdistributed models • distributed social network • Distributed Social Networking (DOSN) • distributed social networks • distributed systemElectronic Frontier Foundation • Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) • Facebook • Federated Social Networks (FSN) • Google Wave Federation Protocol • hCard • information ecosysteminteroperabilityknowledge commonsLinkedInlocalisationmultiplatform • OAuth • Online Social Networks (OSN) • open architecture • open protocol • Open Stack • open standardsOpenID • OpenSocial • Orkut • OStatus • peer-to-peer exchange • Portable Contacts (open protocol) • social network aggregation services • software portability • structural abstraction • system scalability • technology integrationTwitter • user application data • user autonomy • Wave Federation Protocol • web feeds • web services • XFN • XRD

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 APRIL 2012

Beta blockers? : proprietary data formats may be legally defensible but open standards can be a better spur for innovation

"Thomson [Thomson Reuters] makes the proprietary bibliography software EndNote, and claims that Zotero is causing its commercial business 'irreparable harm' and is wilfully and intentionally destroying Thomson's customer base. In particular, Thomson is demanding that GMU stop distributing the newer beta–version of Zotero that allegedly allows EndNote's proprietary data format for storing journal citation styles to be converted into an open–standard format readable by Zotero and other software. Thomson claims that Zotero 'reverse engineered or decompiled' not only the format, but also the EndNote software itself. ...

Litigation, which may go to a jury trial, is pending, so judging this case on its legal merits would be premature. But on a more general level, the virtues of interoperability and easy data–sharing among researchers are worth restating. Imagine if Microsoft Word or Excel files could be opened and saved only in these proprietary formats, for example. It would be impossible for OpenOffice and other such software to read and save these files using open standards – as they can legally do.

Competition between open–source and proprietary software is long–running, as personified by the struggle between Windows and Linux for desktop and server operating systems, but also in many branches of software used by scientists. Researchers tend to lean towards open sharing, but they will also pay for added–value features, and it's important that the playing field is level. Ultimately, the customer is king."

(Nature, p.708)

Nature Volume 455, p.708 (9 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/455708a; Published online 8 October 2008, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited.

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TAGS

2006 • added-value features • authorshipbibliography softwareCenter for History and New MediacitationcopyrightDan Cohen • data format • digital informationEndNoteGeorge Mason Universityinteroperabilityknowledge integrationlawsuitlevel playing fieldLinuxMicrosoft ExcelMicrosoft WindowsMicrosoft WordNature (journal) • open sharing • open sourceopen source filesopen source software • open standard format • open standards • OpenOffice • operating systemorganise and share • OS • ownershipproprietary • proprietary data formats • proprietary formats • proprietary software • researchersreverse engineering • science news • science policy • Sean Takatssoftwaretechnology • Thomson Reuters • trademark infringment • Zotero

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
30 MAY 2011

Open Video Alliance: futuring participatory culture

"As internet video matures, we face a crossroads: will technology and public policy support a more participatory culture – one that encourages and enables free expression and broader cultural engagement? Will video be woven into the fabric of the open web? Or will online video become a glorified TV–on–demand service? Open Video is a movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video through open standards, open source, and sharing."

(Open Video Alliance)

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TAGS

authorshipbest practicesbottom-up innovationcensorship • centralised distribution • CODECcontent distributioncopyrightcultural engagementdecentralisationdigital cultureDIYend-usersfair usefilmmakersfree expressionfree speech • iCommons • internet video • interoperabilityinteroperable technologies • Kaltura • legality • media consolidation • online videoopen codecsopen sourceopen standardsopen video • Open Video Alliance • open video ecosystem • open video formatsopen webownershipparticipatory culture • Participatory Culture Foundation • proprietaryproprietary technologiespublic policyregulationremix culture • remixers • scriptiblesharingsocial normstechnical innovationtechnologists • TV-on-demand • video artistsvideo creation • video creators • Yale Internet Society Project • YouTubers • YT

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
23 JANUARY 2011

OSA: actively collecting, preserving, and making openly accessible documents related to recent history and human rights

"The Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University is an archival laboratory. While actively collecting, preserving, and making openly accessible documents related to recent history and human rights, we continue to experiment with new ways to contextualize primary sources, developing innovative tools to explore, represent, or bridge traditional archival collections in a digital environment. Our approach to acquisition is increasingly proactive and inclusive, and we actively seek out non–traditional material, material previously marginalized based on its content, social origin, or form. At OSA Archivum, professional archival work is integrated with public programs, and our Galeria Centralis serves as the focal point of exhibitions, performances, film screenings, lectures, and seminars. Through all of these endeavors, we advocate: open access and transparency in public administration; equal rights to information; the ethical use of private data; open formats and open standards; and broad access to cultural heritage."

(The Open Society Archives, Hungary)

TAGS

archival laboratory • archival work • archive • broad access to cultural heritage • Central European University • collectcollectioncontextcontextualisationcultural formscultural heritagedigital culturedigital environment • equal rights to information • ethical use of private dataethics • Galeria Centralis • Hungaryinformation in contextintegrationknowledge commons • non-traditional material • old mediaopenopen access • open formats • Open Society Archives • open standards • OSA • OSA Archivum • preservationprimary sources • recent history • social construction of knowledgesocial constructionism • social origin • traditional archival collections

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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