Google releases code to help make social data portable

New API will let developers more easily link data created on social networks

Google has unveiled a new API that it hopes will make data created by users of social networks portable.

The Social Graph API makes information about the connections people have with each other on different Web sites easily available, said Brad Fitzpatrick, a Google software engineer. Once the data is available, developers can solve the problem of requiring users to search for and add friends to new social applications and sites every time they join them, noted Fitzpatrick in a blog post.

"[The new API] makes information about the public connections between people on the Web easily available and useful," he wrote. "You can make it easy for users to bring their existing social connections into a new website and as a result, users will spend less time rebuilding their social networks and more time giving your app the love it deserves."

This is better than asking users to search for and add their friends - because they likely will tire of the chore if its required for very social network, he added.

The API, unveiled late last week, crawls the Web to find publicly declared relationships between people's accounts, just like Google crawls the Web for links between pages, Fitzpatrick explained. But instead of returning links to HTML documents, the API returns data structures representing the social relationships discovered. When a user signs up for a new application, a developer can use the API to remind them who they're friends with on other sites and ask them if they want to be friends on the new site, Google said.

Social Graph marks Google's latest effort to make content created on social networks more easily shareable across the Web. Last month, Google and Facebook both announced plans to join the Data Portability Project, which is working on standards to allow user-generated content to be more easily shared among social networking sites.

Josh Catone, a blogger at Read Write Web, noted that the Google API could be an important tool in the data portability movement because "it allows users to find and evaluate their public social connections and take control of that information. As more and more users are beginning to suffer the effects of 'social networking fatigue,' anything that helps automate and make easier the process of adding your existing connections to a new network is a useful tool."

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Heather Havenstein

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