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Some characteristics of social networks as we know them today:

  • Anonymous: the user is not expected to give identifying information about herself; this may impact the possibility to be found; the network of relations maintained by the platform is likely to be either smaller or unrelated to relations that exists outside of the platform.
  • Identity-based: the user is expected to give identifying information about herself, at the very least enough to be found by others
  • Unidirectional: the user can mark someone as a relation, without requiring approval from the target of that relation
  • Bidrectional: the user can only mark someone as a relation if that person explicitly approves it.

Social Networks may implement a number of functions that can be implemented by discrete technologies:

  • Single Sign-On: OpenID, FOAF+SSL
  • Data Portability Format: FOAF, PortableContacts, vCard
  • Data Portability API: OpenSocial API
  • Secure Data Interaction: OAuth
  • Presence and Activity: OpenSocial API