Google introduced a new system called ‘Portable Contacts’, last month, to make it possible for third party websites to access a user’s friends list without requiring them to disclose their password.
Portable Contacts Official Site
Through Portable Contacts, users can easily access contact lists of their friends, across multiple websites. The system uses the same data format as is used in the OpenSocial REST protocol. However, in this case, all his other data remains private, because the authentication mechanism, ‘OAuth’, allows access to only certain parts of the user’s data – in this case the contacts list.
In order to use Portable Contacts, webmasters must register their domains and get an OAuth key. Once that is done, they can start testing the system through Plaxo’s Portable Contacts.
For almost a year now, the idea of data portability has been discussed, and most sites want to ensure their user privacy and security is protected. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have already made APIs available to developers, but each of them is unique and proprietary.
Now seems like the right time to provide a common open spec that can be used by everyone to systematise and simplify the procedure.
Apart from providing this secure and common access system, Portable Contacts aims to lay down well specified authentication and access rules, provide standard libraries that are compatible with all sites and make the entire procedure as simple as possible for users.
Once all the websites accept this standardized system of Portable Contacts, users will be able to have much larger lists of contacts, as they will be able to access the contact lists of their friends safely from any website, and that should make social networking a lot more fun.