Building an Open Social Graph
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.
Online Identity Consolidator
An important aspect of the open social graph is being able to declare the different sites you use and tie them together. That way, your friends can keep in touch with you across multiple services, and you won't have to tell each new site what other tools you're already using.
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.
NOTE: This will only work if you enter a page that's got
rel="me" links in it. Also, it may take a while to crawl if you link to a lot of pages (the crawler is not yet multi-threaded).
How this works
The crawler starts with the URL you enter and looks for
rel="me" links to other sites you use. It then crawls them too, and so on until it runs out of links to follow. It then looks for bi-directional links between sets of URLs, which establish a "verified claim" that the same person is indeed controlling both sides.
For instance, anyone could link to my twitter page, but I won't link back with
rel="me" to any of those sites except my own home page. So if my home page links to my twitter page and vice versa, you can be sure they're both really my pages. Similarly, if my twitter page links to my home page, my home page links to my Plaxo profile, and my Plaxo profile links to my twitter page, I've still established a trusted circle of links, even if no two pages link to each other in both directions.
How can I publish the sites I use?
There are several ways to start publishing
rel="me" links between the sites you use:
- Do it yourself: if you maintain your own web page, it's a snap to add
rel="me"links to the sites you use
- Use an XFN-friendly blog tool: tools like wordpress make it easy to add a sidebar of links and mark them as "sites about me"
- Use Plaxo Pulse: you can publish any of the sites you use to your public profile (e.g. joseph.myplaxo.com). Start using Plaxo Pulse, click on "My Profile" and then "Sites you use" to set it up.
Download the source code
Plaxo is releasing the source code to our Online Identity Consolidator for anyone to use and improve upon. It's a python script that crawls from a starting URL you provide and looks for links to other pages annotated with the rel="me" attribute. It also detects pairs or groups of pages that link to each other in both directions and reports those as "verified claims".
- Video interview by Robert Scoble at Plaxo discussing our online identity consolidator and the open social web
- Thoughts on the Social Graph (by Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon)
- More thoughts from Plaxo on the Social Graph
- Social network portability (discussion of using microformats to power an open social graph)
- Wired: It's time for Social Networks to Open Up