My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version) focuses on the lack of interoperability between social networking sites. While not quite spam, the steady stream of requests for Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Dopplr travellers, or Plaxo contact updates, highlights the lack of interoperability between social network sites and significantly undermines their usefulness.
The interoperability issue is likely to become more prominent in the months ahead as hundreds of specialty social networking sites covering virtually every area of interest from dogs to cooking, jostle for new users. In fact, services such as Ning now enable anyone to create their own social network site. The result is that Internet users are repeatedly required to re-enter their personal information for each new network they join and find that each network is effectively a "walled garden", where the benefits of the network are artificially limited by the inability to link a friend in Facebook with one in MySpace.
These limitations are particularly striking when viewed from a global perspective. While Facebook is a leader in Canada (as well as in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Norway), nearly a dozen other sites hold leadership positions in other countries. These include: