The search engine optimization field came of age when savvy SEO’s read Google’s backrub patents and figured out it was all about the links. Back in the early days of early millennia Google, all you needed to do was spam acquire some links and you could easily get on Google’s front page.
Now, forget links its all about data – specifically connected data that creates your online identity. Every time you create a product review, add friends to your myspace page, create job connections on linkedin and update your blogspot blog you are contributing to your known identity, and this is infinitely valuable.
Berners-Lee says data on the Web is the new links, and Websites should stop keeping it to themselves:
I think, it is a very grown-up thing to realize that you are not the only social networking site… otherwise it is like a website which doesn’t have any links out. In the Semantic Web similarly, if you don’t have any links out, well, that’s boring.
In fact, a lot of the value of many websites is the links out.
Now if you look at the social networking sites which, if you like, are traditional Web 2.0 social networking sites, they hoard this data. The business model appears to be, “We get the users to give us data and we reuse it to our benefit. We get the extra value.”
So, first of all, are they going to let people use the data? I think, the push now, as we’ve seen during the last year, has been unbearable pressure from users to say, “Look, I have told you who my friends are. You are the third site I’ve told who my friends are. Now, I’m going to a travel site and now I’m going to a photo site and now I’m going to a t-shirt site. Hello? You guys should all know who my friends are.” . . . So, the users are saying, “Give me my data back. That’s my data.”
Read the transcript from this conversation.
The data standards are called Friend-of-a-friend (FOAF) and XHTML Friends Network (XFN). Google created OpenSocial to provide developers access to social graph data (the map of connections between friends) but so far major social websites such as Facebook.com are not part of the group.