Will PIM data portability finally come of age?

The big news today this morning: Microsoft Partners with Top Social Networks to Put Users at the Center of their Data.

Microsoft announced the Windows Live Contacts API and partnerships with Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn and Tagged to access contacts and friends from different social networks. At the same time, they are launching http://www.invite2messenger.net to invite friends on other social networks to join them in Windows Live Messenger.

Even if Microsoft is participating in the Data Portability Workgroup, this is a separate endeavour. It does not look really selfless.

In any case, if you weren’t already convinced, it means Microsoft is seriously trying to make its Web 2.0 place by aggressively tackling social networks. It should not be underestimated by it’s competitors. I hope the market will continue embrace the challenge so that we end up more rapidly with true data portability.

Many startups are tackling the PIM portability problem. My favorite, for the moment, is Plaxo. While not perfect (it had a rough start when they had invites spamming people over and over), it has grown to become my data portability manager for contacts and calendaring. It syncs well with Google Calendar and Outlook which syncs well with my Blackberry. It’s much better than my previous solution, but because of screen scraping it still has some glitches. Some of these glitches are with LinkedIn sync. Also, it does not sync Facebook events, probably because of term of use.

It’s already hard to find something that works well for syncing basic contacts and calendaring information between Outlook and Google. I am still amazed that a company like Google cannot even get syncing from Google Calendar to Outlook or Google Calendar to Blackberry right.

Managing different social networks has become a pain. Syncing and sharing data across social network has it’s own challenges like privacy and security. Robert Scoble who was temporarily banned from Facebook knows something about it.

It’s interesting that Microsoft links the Live Contacts API announcement with Live Messenger. I believe that integrating information and interactions we have in social networks should follow us more closely. Who knows, maybe with Messenger I would find a bunch of social network friends that are also on XBox Live and I don’t know about it? It hope. It should.

In my case, its also important that the PIM information follows me offline. It’s the Blackberry’s fault! Whenever I subscribe to an event online, it should easily follow me offline. Same thing for a connection with someone I trust.

I hope a real standard will be widely adopted and implemented soon by the different social networks (specially Facebook).

Update: The space is heating up yet again: Yahoo! Supports OpenSocial; Yahoo!, MySpace and Google to Form Non-Profit OpenSocial Foundation