Microsoft announced last week that it has partnered with the most popular social networks including Bebo, Hi5, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tagged to allow its users to easily move contacts in both directions, while protecting the user’s privacy.
The annnouncement came just one day after Yahoo! announced its intention to support Google’s OpenSocial platform. Microsoft has never been truly open, and so joining any alliance like OpenSocial or even forming a truly similar initiative of its own is out of the question. Microsoft has however taken some big strides to improve data portability and allow users better control over the use of their information.
Several new APIs and tools that help third-parties develop more applications were announced during MIX08 last month. And now a new ‘Windows Live Contacts API‘ has been launched to allow users to transfer and share their contact lists, without any security concerns.
Social networks partnered with Microsoft through this initiative will gradually shift to using Windows Live Contacts API instead of using the method called ‘screen scraping’, which was not a very secure means and exposed users to spam and, worse still, identity fraud.
Users will be given ultimate control in deciding which of their contacts, if any, get shared with each of the participating social networks.
Microsoft has also created a new site where users from the partner social networks can download Live Messenger and invite their friends from the social networks to chat with them. This would normally seem a surprising move from Facebook, given that they are likely to launch their own chat client in the near future. However, Microsoft’s stake in the company has probably influenced the decision to support a competing product.