October 09, 2007

Speculating on Google’s Social Networking Plans: OAuth

Techcrunch had written that on November 5th Google will announce a major development regarding social networking platform. Subsequently Business Week is also running a story along the same lines. The gist of these stories is that Google will allow application developers extensive access to their social network Orkut. BW says that developers can run their application in their servers and still be able to access Orkut data. Indeed it says that Facebook users will be able to access Orkut data from Facebook itself. All this suggests that the November 5th announcement is going to be an implementation of the recently finalized specification called OAuth.

In short OAuth specifies how a user can give a delegative authority to a third party to access an application hosted by a second party. For example routinely social network sites request of its users login and password information of second party’s application so that they can get information from that application. Though many users seem to provide such information, it is a clear security hole, because the third party can get full access for an indefinite period. But OAuth will allow a user to provide a “security token” to the third party and the second party will honor the token, with a provision: the user can specify the range of access the token will entail and for a specified duration. Thus OAuth allows for disjoint social networks to build secure bridges between the users – I do not have to belong to Facebook to be your friend and to access your feed, wall or any other data. Thus clearly OAuth is an important development and it is going to change the landscape of social networks. Now everyone can make the following non-conformant claim: “People keep asking me to join the LinkedIn network, but I’m already part of a network, it’s called the Internet.” Gary McGraw, via Jon Udell, via Gavin Bell, via Simon Wiilison. (slide 144)

At last OAuth, in conjunction with OpenID allows you to be “your own social networking company” (with apologies to Jeff Pulver). Soon I hope to make an announcement about an effort that contributes this line of thinking.

Posted by aswath at October 9, 2007 04:46 PM
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