Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn Work To Share Contacts

Microsoft and four social networks have joined to exchange contacts APIs securely.
Microsoft, Facebook, and other companies on Tuesday announced a new way to transfer contacts among social networks.

Recently, Microsoft and others joined a group called, which intends to give users control over the data they've stored on the Web. The fruits from that effort and similar ones appear to be coming at a trickle, and it's being done on terms set by the companies.

It's not all that difficult today to invite friends from one social network onto another. But Microsoft says that the way it's done today isn't secure or easy enough. The company and four other social networks have joined to exchange contacts APIs securely. Rather than using "screen scraping" techniques to rip the data from the screens showing your friends lists as is done today, the APIs reach into back-end data systems.

While that doesn't sound like a major advancement, Microsoft frames this as an early step on the road to real data portability between Web sites and social networks. "We think that allowing users to take their data with them is a really important commitment that we want to make as a company to put the user at the center of their online experience," Microsoft's John Richards, director of Windows Live Platform, said in an interview. "This is going to require the industry to be very thoughtful around the ability to bring multiple kinds of data together with the need for privacy."

It's also a far cry from even a few months ago. Back then, Fortune reported that Microsoft had been sending cease and desist letters to start-ups that had been trying to get users to invite Hotmail contacts to their new service.

Instead of trying to get the start-ups to adopt Windows Live Messenger as their exclusive instant messaging client, as Fortune then reported, Microsoft has now opened a Web site to invite friends on social networking services into Windows Live Messenger. At first users will only be able to invite Facebook and Bebo friends and Hotmail contacts, but LinkedIn, Hi5, and Tagged will be added later.

Editor's Choice
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
Alan Brill, Senior Managing Director, Cyber Risk, Kroll
John Bennett, Global Head of Government Affairs, Cyber Risk, Kroll
Sponsored by Lookout, Sundaram Lakshmanan, Chief Technology Officer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Sponsored by Lookout, Sundaram Lakshmanan, Chief Technology Officer
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing