GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

July 18, 2005

In two of my recent posts (“Musing on Three Not-So-Fully-Baked Ideas” and “Social Networks: The Network or the Service?”) , I expressed my desire for a open and central repository system for social connection data. It looks like I just ran across a system that seems to address these wishes. XFN, the Xhtml Friends Network, “is a simple way to represent human relationships,” as one of the extensions of the microformats standards effort. In line with and similar to my own theoretical vision of a system, their “delusions of grandeur” state,

“1. XFN provides the basis for a world-wide distributed network of personal connections. Proprietary data-owning services like Friendster could be superceded by XFN crawling and searching sites —a sort of “Friendorati,” as it were. The advantage of a Friendorati-style network is that it allows every individual to fully express themselves through personal weblogs and web sites, instead of to the limited degree permitted by a proprietary service’s user interface.

2. Commercial services like Amazon, which currently ask users to manually register all their friends in order to make “wish list” and other information sharing simpler, may find it easier simply to crawl XFN relationships on the open Internet. This would allow a user to enter the URL of their site, and let the service programmatically analyze XFN relationships to build a list of friends.”

I love it. If we as a community were able to adopt this type system, it would indeed transition connection data to just that – data – forcing web-software networking applications to focus on creating valuable services, as opposed to building and retaining walled-in proprietary networks. However, as I commented previously, I do realize that this would take huge collective action to build a critical mass of users.

To start in this process, though, I have followed the Global Multimedia Protocols Group’s steps to get started and have (hopefully) successfully made my blog site XFN friendly. As such, my blogroll (maintained by BlogRolling) should now include metadata for which people in it I have met and consider a business acquaintance. (I’ve included their XFN friendly logo in my blogroll as well).

I would welcome anyone else’s ideas and reactions to this one (including tips if I haven’t executed on the setup correctly). Especially since I am still wrapping my head around the idea.

  • Tantek

    Hi David,

    I took a look at your XFN friendly blogroll (using Firefox’s very nice “View Selection Source” feature), and your use of XFN looks good to me. The only question will be whether any of the XFN search engines (e.g. RubHub and ) are able to parse or execute the javascript from BlogRolling to see and index your XFN friendly blogroll.

    The other piece of a distributed social network is marking up information about yourself (e.g. your current about page ) in an open standard like hCard.

    For more on this topic, see the David Berlind’s excellent article: “Will social databases give way to social protocols”.


    Tantek Çelik


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