Microsoft Partners With Social Networks To Improve Data Portability
The partner sites have each agreed to use the Windows Live Contacts application programming interface (API) so members can import Windows Live contacts--most commonly in the form of Hotmail address books--to their sites.
Part of its recently outlined data-portability strategy, Microsoft has launched an Invite2Messenger service for users of those social networks to invite their community of "friends" to join Windows Live Messenger.
"We firmly believe that we are simply stewards of customers' data and that customers should be able to choose how they control and share their data," John Richards, director of Windows Live Platform, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday morning.
Until now, users wishing to transport their contacts lists from one platform to another often resorted to "screen-scraping"--or diving into an account on a social network or e-mail client database to export contacts to another.
"With the Windows Live Contacts API, we have provided an alternative to 'screen-scraping' that is equally open but unequivocally safer and more secure for customers," wrote Richards, explaining how scraping puts users at risk for phishing attacks, identity fraud and spam.
Members of Facebook and Bebo can now invite friends on their Windows Live contacts list to join their social networks--without having to give over their Windows Live password--while the remaining three networks are expected to open within the next few months.
Microsoft finds itself in the position of playing catch-up with its others in the space, including Yahoo, which already operates a similar service with LinkedIn.
Also, at the beginning of the month, Google rolled out a new Contacts API for developers to access users' Google contacts without them needing to grant full access to their account. Prior to the new API, sites that wanted to harvest users' contact data needed their Gmail log-in information.
Some social networks will help members import their contacts list from Web-based e-mail services, although they often require that members surrender their usernames and passwords for those accounts.