Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Microsoft Joins Data Portability Group To Develop Info-Sharing Standards



Microsoft announced that it joined DataPortability.org to enable web users to move personal data around web sites.

Today's web sites allow users to share data only with sites have direct business relationships. DataPortability.org, however, is suggesting standard rules to integrate existing open standards and protocols so that any web sites following the rules can share data with the data owner's permission. (Security and privacy are of great concerns here.) Other companies joined the working group includes Facebook, Google, and Plaxo.

The Microsoft's motivation is to benefit its 420M active users of Windows Live service by providing seamless foreign services (i.e., other web sites). Microsoft has also made an effort to enable users to move around web sites without entering passwords multiple times through an authentication gateway service called PassPort, though PassPort failed to be an industry standard.

D-O-C-U-M-E-N-T Checklist:

D - data types and document types

The data type the article talks about is virtually all kinds of user data stored in Microsoft's web sites which are not accessible in other web sites.

O - organizational transactions and processes

Almost no business transaction/process have been in this area.
Although Microsoft family web sites may share user data, it has been taken for granted that data stored in one site are not available in different sites. Therefore, users have to move their data explicitly and manually.

C - context

All services implemented in Microsoft's web sites are subject to the change.

U - user types and special user requirements

Every www user using Microsoft's web sites and other web sites joined DataPortability.org can benefit from the change. They will be able to access their data through different web sites.

M - models, patterns, or standards that apply or that are needed

First, web site should be reimplemented to be friendly to DataPortability.org's standard. (The standard should be able to incorporate different application-level protocols on which each site relies)
Secondly, a user authentication system, which can identify different identities in different websites same, is also required.
Third, security and privacy safeguards are essential.

E - enterprises and eco systems

The eco system includes all web sites participating in the DataPortability.org movement.

N - the needs driving the enterprise(s)

It is driven by the account incompatibility issue, which means a user needs to manage different accounts for different services. Therefore, user data stored in a site is not accessible by other sites.

T - technology constraints and opportunities

First, new sites should be implemented under the DataPortability.org's standard. It may restrict the degree of freedom when choosing an engineering technology.
Secondly, existing sites may be reimplemented when the standard is not compatible with the site.
But, there can be a synergy by sharing accounts on different sites. For example, user can reuse photos, which she posted on FaceBook, to print them out rather than upload over and over.

DK Moon

Very interesting article. It is indeed frustrating that many websites have similar features, but one or two that stand out which requires individual registrations for each site. It is difficult to keep track of all my user accounts, and it is quite cumbersome to add the same data over-and-over again so that it is available for each individual service.

One of the benefits mentioned is sharing across sites by uploading once. If this is the case, I wonder who will be responsible for the storage/bandwidth (e.g. is it the site that you uploaded to originally)? What incentives, if any, does a site get if it stores user data?

This kind of technology might increase opportunity for smaller or start-up type sites. Opting into this standard automatically integrates a huge customer base into newer systems.

I look forward to seeing what standards they produce and how all these sites will interact and behave. What kind of information will be shared, and what kind of information will stay proprietary?

Additional comments:
The “Datatypes” in this case is information that can be used across different types of sites. Standard types might include name, address, password, public key, etc. Non-standard types (types that might not be applicable to all domains) might include media such as music, photos, and videos.

I think the “Context” includes all those who buy into the idea of info-sharing standards and willing to contribute and implement them into their infrastructure.
I'm also wondering what's an economic incentive for a site storing data to share with other sites. Probably, they're paying for storage and bandwidth. Then, they should be compensated. Essentially, this may be solved by business relationships. But how?
I think it's really cool idea; how to move images (or texts) from website to email to blog to whatever... freely along with simple usability solution will make this feature really powerful! (tired of copying (or download an image to a certain folder) and pasting!)
From a commercial perspective, there would be an advantage for a business in the convenience for customers of being automatically logged into its site, since this would encourage use of the site.

The data storage problem is interesting, since most sites that store your data now rely on you actually going to the site to use the data. This would undermine that business model. But data storage services could possibly thrive under this model, since they would be paid by web businesses directly.
Maybe it is because I've spent over 15 years in the standards arena (and am on the Board of Directors of OASIS, one of the major standards-making organizations), but I'm a lot more skeptical than all of you are about this. I went to dataportability,org and found a very short list of participants, most of whom are individuals or with very small companies -- which means that they aren't going to have much clout in changing some of the relevant standards, which have been hammered out by big players (Sun, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, etc.). That said, it would be a good idea to somehow try to harmonize these different data sharing models... and maybe this would be a good assignment for us to tackle later in the semester. So thanks for the suggestion.

bob glushko
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