We’ve spoken recently about opening up the social graph. At last week’s Web 2.0 Summit, our own David Recordon was joined by Brad Fitzpatrick to talk about some of the first real bits of technology that have been made available for developers to build on. From David’s post on O’Reilly Radar:
Today I announced a new service for developers that is a key piece of infrastructure that will help to open the social graph. Keeping track of friends online is not easy to do. You might let a service import your GMail address book today, but a week from that, the information is out of date. The Six Apart Relationship Update Stream is an endless feed of social relationship data, designed for Web services to be able to send and receive information when changes to social relationships on their service occur. This is a developer platform, not something for regular users. It launches today, streaming real-time public changes from LiveJournal and Ma.gnolia, averaging around hundreds of changes per minute, with updates from Hi5, GetSatisfaction, SmugMug, Plaxo, and Vox coming soon. … This means that when I add a friend on LiveJournal, the feed I see on FriendFeed could be updated in real-time to start showing events from them as well.
The Relationship Update Stream is a sort of “river of relationships” — one endless list of the ways that we’ve all added each other to various social networking services. Of course, it only shows data that you’ve chosen to make public.
To be clear, this is a tool for developers, not for regular users of social networking services. But what it promises is a way for social sites to do the right thing, and share the status of relationships that you create on one service with every other service you use. We believe that most sites want to do the right thing — there just haven’t been tools available to make that possible.
As this post is published, updates.elsewhere.im shows roughly 200 updates (“pings”) a minute are being published this way. It’s a remarkable measure of just how much potential there is for social sites to, well, be more social with each other. If you’re a developer take a look at the Relationship Update Stream, and if you’re a member of a social networking site, ask the services you use if they’ll let you take your relationship data with you.
A few recent media appearances by our team really highlight the progress that our community has made in helping blogs become a standard business tool. One great practical example is our CEO Chris Alden’s appearance on the Technology for Business Sake podcast, talking about using a blogging platform to create your business website. In a two-part conversation with Brent Leary, Chris makes a pretty compelling case for why blogs should be an essential part of the way you communicate online.
Just as important to us is the international focus that we’ve had at Six Apart from our earliest days. Jason Pontin in Technology Review talks about The Japanese Model, with some perspective from our own Nobuhiro Seki, who’s our General Manager in Japan:
Mr. Seki noted that Japanese corporate blogs, despite the country’s international reputation for formality, often have a personal voice; executives and employees blog on business-related matters about which they feel passionately. That’s because Japanese blogs grew out of the country’s highly individualistic blogging culture, which, unlike North American blogging, has never aspired to the status of new-media journalism.
It’s not just Japan; As we’ve noted in our Featured Movable Type blog post about Jian Shuo Wang, we’ve seen remarkable adoption of blogs in China, and in dozens of other countries around the world. After all, what’s the use in making communications tools if they aren’t used by everybody?
High-profile geek blogger Robert Scoble just posted an hour-long conversation with our CEO Chris Alden, our VP of Products Michael Sippey, and David Recordon, the engineer on our team who's leading efforts around OpenID and the open social graph. Though it doesn't cover all of the interesting stuff we're doing, we thought it's well worth a look for those who want some insights into where we've been and where Six Apart is going next.
If you're busy (or just less masochistic), you might want to just check out this six minute clip of highlights from the longer conversation. It features a nice look at some of the slick features that are new in Movable Type 4.
Well, today is Blog Action Day, and we commemorate it by celebrating the many customers whose blogs are devoted entirely to the environment. For these customers, every day is Blog Action Day. From the Sierra Club to university professors to lawyers to concerned moms and dads to tree huggers, our customers include organizations and individuals who are passionate about the environment and who want to raise awareness about it. They clearly believe that blogs and online communities help them achieve these goals.
We’d like to introduce just a small sample of the smart, committed, and informative bloggers who write on a regular basis about their passion, the environment.
We’ve been celebrating a number of birthdays recently — TypePad turned four years old on Saturday, October 6th, and Movable Type celebrated its six year anniversary two days after that. When both launched, they were described as “Ben and Mena’s baby”, since they were originally created by our cofounders Ben and Mena Trott.
And then, just two days after that last birthday, there was an even better birthday that we’re delighted to announce. Also created, designed, developed and launched entirely by Ben and Mena is a new arrival: Welcome, Penelope Frances Trott, born early in the morning on October 10. Baby, Mom, and Dad are all doing fine, though they’re a little too tired to do much blogging themselves. We’re sure Ben and Mena will want to say something themselves when they’re back in the loop in a little while, but until then, congrats!
Blog Action Day is this Monday, October 15th. It is a day that bloggers around the world can make an impact together by blogging about the environment. The founders of Blog Action Day set the day aside to draw attention to this very important issue. Bloggers are encouraged to write as they normally would, but along the lines of the environment theme.
Given the far reach of bloggers using our tools, we encourage you to participate in this day too. There are three ways to do so: post about the environment on October 15th, donate any earnings from that day to a charity or one listed on the Blog Action site, and/or help promote the initiative by putting a banner or post on your blog. You can find the banners here.
It's a simple but inspiring call to action that can make a statement on many levels. 10,300 blogs are already signed up (and increasing every minute) and have a reach of over 8,290,000 subscribers. On October 15th, we all have a chance to participate in and see the impact of uniting our diverse voices toward one issue that affects us all. See you on Monday.
As we've thought more and more about the big challenges facing the social media world, we've been inspired not just by the communities that use our tools, but by the community of peers that make other great sites and services. That's inspired us to create technologies like OpenID to help with authentication and identity, or to support services using memcached to help scaling. It's also the reason we're working to open the social graph.
What's the next big challenge? Making it safer and easier for all of our applications and services online to talk to each other.
Right now, if you want Flickr to post to your TypePad blog, or you want to connect a client to update both your Twitter account and your LiveJournal, you have to give them the password to your account, giving a third-party free reign on your site. Even worse, on some other services, the password for an account used for blogging or other applications is the same login that controls extremely sensitive information like your email account or credit card systems.
You shouldn't have to give out the password to your email account or access to your credit card just because you want to use two websites together.
So at Six Apart, we're excited to support the effort around OAuth. The OAuth community has just announced a final draft of the 1.0 specification. As more sites are adopting OpenID, all of us who make services have been realizing that the practice of giving your password to another web service or desktop application for API access just doesn't work any more. It was something we had to do at the time out of necessity, but now we've got a better way to do things.
There are some examples to learn from, too: Google, Flickr, Yahoo!, AOL, Amazon, and others have all developed protocols to address this problem on their own services, but developers still had to go and learn each of these systems. And these existing implementations were similar (because they solved the same problem), but different enough in implementation to be a pain in the butt if you wanted to support them all.
So, OAuth was born. It's been an effort spearheaded by Blaine Cook of Twitter, Chris Messina, and Larry Half of Ma.gnolia who soon invited us and a wider community into the fold earlier this year. In addition to our support at Six Apart, the OAuth community has grown to include supporters from Google, Amazon, Yahoo's Flickr team, and many others, notably Eran Hammer-Lahav, who's done a wonderful job as the final editor for the technical spec.
So how does OAuth work? Read/WriteWeb describes a scenario where you, "could login to Twitter through Twitterific but only give Twitterific access to read and write messages - not to change your user profile page, your password or do anything else that they could in theory do today with full access to your account." The website compares it to a "valet key" for your car, but applied to your online accounts.
Like OpenID's roots, OAuth came from a small group of dedicated people working to solve a real problem. And like OpenID, all these people shared the goal of keeping the protocol as simple as possible while still allowing for flexibility when using it. OAuth really complements OpenID and we believe this new spec is most powerful when used in conjunction with OpenID. Imagine being able to sign-in to Twitter with your OpenID from your Vox blog and grant Vox permission to post an update when you write an entry, all without having to create a new username and password, without having to reveal your existing password, and without clunky workarounds like copying and pasting long API keys. That's a real mashup and illustrates the power of the web itself as an open platform.
Best of all, this new, easier experience for mashing up different websites is something a regular, non-technical user can actually do.
As you might imagine, we're really excited to continue seeing the great adoption of OpenID (the past two weeks included France Telecom and Ask.com's Bloglines) providing tens of millions more people with OpenID identities. Now that OAuth is ready to build upon, our dreams of an open social graph are one step closer to a reality.