announced that the company now offers a secure way for third party websites to access any user's list of friends, with their permission, and based on a proposed new industry standard. No more giving away your GMail password and then having random services you want to try go into your account and scrape the information there.Google has
Called Portable Contacts, the technical spec offers a standard, interoperable way for social networks to serve up your friends lists to anyone you give permission to access them. This should allow application developers to innovate on top of your social connections much more efficiently.
According to the Portable Contacts website:
we're seeing major Internet companies making contacts APIs available, such as Google's GData Contacts API, Yahoo's Address Book API, and Microsoft's Live Contacts API (with more to come). Not surprisingly though, each of these APIs is unique and proprietary. We believe this creates the ideal conditions for developing a common, open spec that everyone can benefit from.
Why is This Important?
The social web works best when it's truly social. New applications that use social sharing can be much more useful when new users can port in their existing network of friends and see who they know is already using a site. That's much better than starting cold.
These types of standardized approaches to passing that data are secure (that's good) and allow developers to write code once to use all the supporting sources of data. You've heard the old illustration about railroads? When all the railroads in the US accepted a standard size of rail, all the trains were able to travel much farther than ever before. That's where we're headed with all this information on the web. When we give it standard methods of transport, it can go further and do more than ever before.
That's a pretty big deal and it's fantastic that Google has moved to support the Portable Contacts standard. Hopefully sometime soon everyone will and then we'll wonder what took the web so long to enable social interoperability.