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Social Network Portability

Social network portability is one of several user-interface ideas and suggestions for working with microformats in the area of data-portability.

The Problem

Why is it that every single social network community site makes you:

In addition, why do you have to:

AKA "social network fatigue problem" and "social network update/maintenance problem".

The Goals

When you join a new site, you should be able to import or preferably subscribe to

  • your profile information
  • your social network

from any existing profile of yours.

In addition it would be nice if preferences around:

also transferred between profiles.

AKA a social internetwork, a network of social networks.

Design Patterns and Recipes

The "How To" for social network profile sites that want to solve the above problems and achieve the above goals.

  1. Publish microformats in your user profiles and contacts.
    1. implement hCard on user profile pages, including xfn rel="me" on hyperlinks to users' blogs or home pages that they specify. See hcard-supporting-profiles for sites that have already done this. See how-to-publish-user-profiles for more details (See hcard-authoring until that previous link is created and filled in.)
    2. implement hCard+XFN on the list of contacts on your user profile pages. Use xfn rel="me" to link to contacts list pages and contacts list pagination links too. See hcard-xfn-supporting-friends-lists for sites that already do this. (e.g. [Twitter]) and how-to-markup-contact-lists for more details.
    3. implement hCard wherever a user's name is mentioned in lists, in comments, in messages or wherever else it would help to identity that a "person" or "organization" is being referred to.
  2. Subscribe to microformats for your user profiles and contacts:
    1. when signing up a new user and importing contacts
      1. let a user fill out and "auto-sync" from one of their existing hcard-supporting-profiles, their name, their icon etc. Satisfaction Inc already supports this (sign up page). See how-to-import-user-profiles for more details.
      2. let a user fill out and "auto-sync" their list of contacts from one of their existing hCard+XFN supporting friends lists. already supports this (screenshot). See how-to-import-contacts for more details (e.g. first implement direct XFN friends list import/subscribe by using the SGAPI to important contacts *across the web*, much faster than importing from one service at a time.)



Open Source

User Interfaces

Social Network Portability FAQ

See social-network-portability-faq.


See the microformats events page for upcoming events related to social network portability.

Articles and blog posts

Note: if you know of or can find earlier mentions on the web of the phrases "portable social network" or "social network portability", please add the earliest reference elsewhere on the web to this chronology. Tantek 08:25, 22 Aug 2007 (PDT).

If you can't see my friends and let my friends be seen, you'll be washed up and hung out to dry.

See ma.gnolia Portable Social Network Group for aggregated bookmarks around the subject and join the group to share links.

View blog reactions to this page.


Alternative Approaches

Non-web based:

See also