All posts tagged ‘social networks’

File Under: Identity, Social, UI/UX

OpenID: Over One Billion (Potentially) Served

OpenID, the single sign-on solution which allows you to use a unified identity across the web, now boasts one billion potential users. Providers like Google, Yahoo and WordPress have adopted the technology, providing nearly everyone on the web with easy access to an OpenID account.

OpenID lets you log in to your favorite website using only your e-mail address or a URL — your blog’s address, a profile page on a social network or your social network username/password. Using one of those identifiers, you can log in to any website or service where OpenID is welcome, saving you the trouble of having to keep track of dozens of account names and passwords. There are also companion technologies that help you automatically fill out a profile and connect you with your friends once you’re logged in to a new social website.

For a long time, OpenID was a fringe technology, and few large players supported it. In January 2008, Yahoo and AOL were the first major destination sites to host OpenID accounts. 2009 has seen everyone from Microsoft to Facebook to the U.S. Government embracing OpenID. In addition to the one billion accounts coming from OpenID providers, the OpenID foundation says that nearly 9 million websites will allow you to login using your OpenID credentials.

The short story is that OpenID is now well established on the web. But the story doesn’t end there.

Sadly, one billion potential users does not one billion users make. Many people with OpenID accounts remain blissfully unaware of OpenID and what it can do for them. OpenID also faces strong competition from proprietary ID solutions like those of Facebook or Twitter.

OpenID interfaces are another problem we’ve covered before — different sites use vastly different sign-in forms which has creates confusion for less-than-savvy web users. Couple that with Facebook’s far simpler Facebook Connect tools and you begin to see why OpenID doesn’t have one billion actual users.

The good news is that the OpenID Foundation and its partners have been working hard to streamline the login process and improve the usability of OpenID on those 9 million sites that accept OpenID.

We’re excited to see that what began as little more than a grassroots effort to solve the problem of remembering too many usernames and passwords, has turned into a massive, web-wide effort to create better, portable identity tools. So even if OpenID hasn’t seen the widespread adoption of other login systems, it certainly set the ball rolling among the web’s social networking technicians.

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File Under: Identity, Social

Google Crawlers Now Understand ‘Canonical’ URLs

Migrating a web site from one domain to another is never easy. You’ll probably lose whatever Google ranking your old pages had, possibly break incoming links and generally disrupt the flux capacitor of the web.

Of course, there are occasionally good reasons to move your content and now there are some new ways to let Google know what you’re up to. The Google Webmaster blog recently announced that Google will support the cross-domain rel="canonical" link element. That means you can effectively migrate your site to a new domain even if you don’t have server access to do redirects.

In most cases, Google still suggests that, if possible, you use 301 permanent redirects to point both visitors and search engine bots to your new domain. However, if that’s not possible for some reason, (for example, if you’re migrating from a hosted blog service to your own domain) then you can add rel="canonical" element to your page headers and Google will index the new URL.

Note that in our example — moving from a hosted blogging service to a self-hosted domain — it’s OK if there are some differences between the new and old pages, but the basic content (the blog post) should be the same.

Previously, Google would look down on cases of duplicate content across domains. Given the number of content-stealing “splogs” out there, filtering duplicate content by domains is a good way for Google to stop search engine spam. The problem is there are legitimate reasons to have duplicate content, like migrating a site to a new domain, and now there’s a way to do it.

One important note, Google no longer recommends blocking access to duplicate content on your website, whether with a robots.txt file or other methods. Just use the rel="canonical" tag instead.

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File Under: APIs, Multimedia, Social

Could MySpace’s New Real Time Stream Lead to Better Music Sharing?

MySpace has thrown open its doors to app developers, giving them real time access to all MySpace users’ activities via a new suite of APIs.

Now, every time Jenny friends somebody, posts a photo or writes a blog post, you’ll be able to make that notification show up in your app mere seconds after it happens.

The company announced the new Real Time Stream API, along with two other social APIs, Wednesday morning at the Le Web conference in Paris, France. It posted all the details on its developer website and kicked off a contest to see who can create the best apps. The new APIs offer access to every MySpace user’s stream in real time. MySpace publishes its user activities using the ActivityStrea.ms format, and it’s using PubSubHubbub to push the streams out in real time.

Wednesday’s announcement comes during a big week for MySpace. Only a day before, the company completed its acquisition of iMeem, the music sharing service, which also published ActivityStrea.ms data about its users’ actions. It also comes the same day that Facebook announced it was making status updates from its users publicly available to the web at large — previously, the default setting was to only publish status updates to Facebook’s own platform or approved Facebook apps. The new APIs at MySpace will allow its developers to post users’ updates with the same frequency as Facebook and other services.

So, what’s going to happen next?

MySpace has long been eclipsed by Facebook as the hottest social network for individuals, but bands and musicians of all levels remain incredibly active on MySpace. Lots of musicians don’t even have a website anymore, they just have a MySpace page, and maybe a Twitter account. A handful of major clubs in every city book all of their shows using MySpace. If you’re in a band, you pretty much have to be on MySpace — like it or not. It’s one of the key web tools driving the music industry right now.

However, one big thing missing from MySpace’s music experience (well, one of the big things) is the ability for people to easily share a song they like. When an artist uploads a song, their status update provides a link to that song. But for fans, all music sharing happens through playlists, which are clunky.

If you are listening to a song and you want to tell all your friends about it, you add it to your profile playlist. That action shows up in your stream, and the song shows up in the player widget on your MySpace profile, (Here’s what it looks like). It’s only there as long as you decide to keep it there, and since MySpace only get 10 songs at a time, if you’re an avid music lover, chances are it won’t be there for longer than a day or a few hours.

Compare this to other popular music sharing services, like LaLa, Mog, Last.fm and iMeem, or even smaller ones like TheSixtyOne, and you’ll notice that it’s much easier for users to send a Facebook update or a Tweet about a particular song they like (and as many songs as they like) complete with a short link leading back to the page where their friends can listen to the song right away. They don’t have to deal with playlists or anything similar, they just share a link to that song.

It’s an elegant and direct way to spread music, which is why it’s become the standard for song sharing on every social network except for MySpace.

This open sharing, along with direct short URL links, is one of the most powerful forces for artist exposure, and for fans to express enthusiasm, driving the music business. For evidence of this, see Ted Greenwald’s post on our Epicenter blog, “Geeks to Music Industry: APIs Can Set You Free

,” about how open song sharing is changing the way people engage with and encounter new music.

MySpace’s music sharing system works, but it feels backwards and weird when compared to the rest of these tools. But with the purchase of iMeem and with the launch of these new APIs, we’ll probably see some positive changes quickly.

For MySpace’s sake, we hope so. The only reason for most of us to visit MySpace these days is to interact with bands. So, anything at all that makes it easier for users to like, link to and comment on songs, and to publish those activities out onto the web in real time would be a boon for the old beast of a social network.

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File Under: Identity, Social

Google Profiles Now Function as OpenIDs

So says Google’s Brad Fitzpatrick in a Twitter post Wednesday.

You can now use the URL of your Google Profile to confirm your identity on any website that supports OpenID. When the site asks you for an OpenID identifier, just plug in the URL of your Google Profile and you’ll be directed to Google, where you confirm the request.

OpenID Foundation board member Chris Messina has posted a screenshot of what the user flow looks like when using your Google Profile URL to log in on a website that supports OpenID:

Brad is one of the creators of OpenID and one of the driving forces behind Google Profiles. Google launched its public profile service, which allows anyone with a Google account to create a public profile on the web that shows up in Google’s search results, earlier this year. At first, Profiles were rather spare, but Google has slowly been enhancing the features of Profiles to include vanity URLs and support for microformats.

These profiles are advantageous over proprietary social networking profiles because of their high visibility in Google, the depth they allow, and because they function as a social hub — most people use them to point to their social presences on other sites. Not to mention that Google Profiles appear on the open web rather than inside of Facebook, where, by default, a profile can only be seen by people you’ve connected with on Facebook.

Webfinger, also referenced in Fitzpatrick’s tweet, is a new protocol Google is building into Gmail. It lets you attach any public identity data to your e-mail address. Learn more about it at the Google Code project site.

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File Under: Social

New Facebook Features Show It’s Still Finding Its Real-Time Legs

Facebook has made two major changes to the way it displays real-time data about user activity on its platform — one for publishers to help track the spread viral content, and one change that affects how people see updates from their friends.

The site has enhanced its Share feature — the tiny “Share this on Facebook” widgets seen at the bottom of blog posts, videos and photos — to include live stats tracking. Starting Monday, publishers can see a live count of how many times a particular post or piece of media has been shared on Facebook.

The new live stats counter for Facebook Share closely mimics Tweetmeme‘s popular “Retweet” badges, or the live widgets that show the number of Diggs or up-votes on Reddit a piece of content has accumulated.

Facebook Share is getting some analytics tools, too. In addition to learning how many times Facebook users have shared a post, publishers can also see whenever somebody “likes” the shared post, leaves a comment, or clicks back to the original site from within Facebook.

It’s not the only tweak to Facebook’s real-time data flow the company has made to its site within the last few days.

On Friday, the Facebook home page for logged-in users was redesigned to show a filtered stream of updates. Rather than just showing a stream of every status update, every post and every “like” from within their network, Facebook users can now choose between a streamlined, filtered view and a raw, unfiltered view.

This change basically incorporates the old “Highlights” feed — the most important posts from your friends — into the main News Feed. The result is a stream of the most interesting or important stuff that’s been posted within the past couple of days.

click for largerThe new filtered News Feed is now the default. The more times a post is commented on or liked, the more “popular” it becomes. An algorithm determines what goes into the feed and what stays hidden. The old “Highlights” box is being removed, as it’s now redundant.

The Live Feed, which can be accessed by clicking on the new “Live Feed” tab at the top of the home page, gives a more immediate, Twitter-like stream. It displays all of the recent activity, posts and updates from you and your friends, regardless of popularity.

The odd thing here is that one of these changes brings Facebook up to speed with its competitors in the real-time content sharing game, while the other change sets it back.

Publishers want to know how their content is doing out in the wild, so the new Share tools make sense.

But in altering the News Feed in the way it has, Facebook actually becomes less of a real-time news source for its users. By adding popularity filters, important stuff might not bubble up into your News Feed for hours or days. I just looked at my News Feed, and the newest item is four hours old. If I really want to know what my friends are doing, reading, liking and talking about right now, I have to switch over to the Live Feed. Luckily, this is as easy as one mouse click.

But what does this say about the proliferation of real-time data streams on the web? Publishers always want better real-time data, but do users? Are regular people by and large tired of the massive firehose of updates their favorite sites now all offer? Is it all becoming just too much?

If so, Facebook made the right move with the News Feed changes. If not, hey, there’s always the Live Feed option one click away. Or there’s Twitter. And if you want a real-time stream you can filter even more minutely, you can turn to FriendFeed or Cliqset or Plaxo Pulse.

If the changes to Facebook’s stream bothers you — and judging from the comments of my own Facebook friends, the changes aren’t being seen as that friendly — they are easy to alter. Facebook Insider has an excellent post showing how to change your feed settings. Additional tips are in the comments.

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