With Microsoft’s recent bid to acquire Yahoo!, there will be a plethora of Internet doomsday concerns. Those are to be expected. But there is at least one aspect of the deal that intrigues me… integration of their respective social media products and perspectives.
User frustration in navigating between the wide array of social media sites has resulted in a new product category some say will be the killer applications of 2008: Tools for Managing Multiple Social Networks. There certainly is a need for such products today. However, that category should have a relatively short life-span, as it addresses problems that should be eliminated.
Many industry experts consider social media to be the defining element of “Web 2.0″. I believe that to be true. But the current state of social media platforms reminds me of the AOL and CompuServe heydays. Ultimately, the closed, proprietary nature of those networks conflicted with the open nature of the Internet – which led to the failure of those platforms. I expect the same will happen to the current batch of social media networks if they don’t open the platforms for integration. The good news is there is evidence of this realization by Yahoo! and Microsoft, and many of the other players.
Yahoo! recently launched support for Open ID, which provides users with a single digital identity that can be used across multiple, unrelated sites. Microsoft has a similar but proprietary solution with Live ID. Microsoft representatives have told me they were looking into Open ID integration, but didn’t have any specific plans or timelines. Hopefully, this merger would elevate Open ID’s relevance to Microsoft and accelerate Open ID / Live ID integration.
Microsoft recently announced it was joining DataPortability.org, which promotes standards for data portability and exchange (such as friends lists). Plaxo, Facebook, and Google have announced support, as well. But Yahoo! has not. Hopefully, the Microsoft merger would elevate DataPortability.org’s relevance to Yahoo!.
If the merger results in both Microsoft and Yahoo! supporting Open ID and DataPortability.org, it would be a huge win for social media integration. This should create tremendous momentum for both movements and influence other organizations to follow suit. People can certainly conceive of negative consequences of the deal. But I’m a “glass is half full” kind of guy. And there is evidence that both parties see relevance in open standards.