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Social Networking Best Practices

Proposed Group/Task Force Charter

The W3C instrument used to accomplish the mission set forth below has not been specified.


The mission of the W3C Social Networking Best Practices group or task force is to encourage improvements in social networking user experience, business practices and technology management by way of recommendation/adoption of guidelines which are developed by consensus among industry participants.

Development of standards is not envisioned and their development would not be considered the mission of the present group.


The taskforce will achieve its mission by:

  1. fostering/engaging in industry discussion with W3C members as well as those members of target audience groups who are not W3C around well-defined topics (see scope),
  2. developing/documenting broad agreement about best practices,
  3. spell out/expressing best practices in a manner which is appropriate for the target audience, and
  4. promoting best practices for adoption by one or more of four possible target audiences.


Since social networking is permeating all forms of digital communications and the lives of people, the scope of the Best Practices group could become quite large.

As there remains much experimentation to be done in social networking and experimentation frequently leads to innovation and differentiation, it could be considered valuable for the Social Networking Best Practices group to maintain a public information portal on current practices in specific domains of social networking. The definition of “current” could be tricky to get agreement. In addition, it is important not to standardize but to recognize that best practices are likely to (will) evolve over time.

Domains of social networking suitable for best practices might include user experience, business practices, technology management.

Privacy and Trust

Trust and privacy are important in social networks, unfortunately social network users are not aware of their data usage.

  1. Using an external login (ex: third party single login) to access multiple services would promote decentralization and solve some usability issues. (ex: OpenID is one possibility)
  2. Decentralization of identification would also promote identity diversity under the control of user. Some users might want to have different identities depending on the networks they are using or even two different personae on the same network (ex: professional and personal accounts).

Users of a service need to know the access policy of their data, be other users, the developers of the service itself, and the operators. Access granularity has made progress but is still underdefined. (ex: OAuth is a good step in that direction.)

Lastly, knowing the data integrity and data origin is crucial in decentralized environments. The respect of user expectation on data quality helps to create trust and help to create system where privacy is enforced.

The W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking participants discussed the above topic and felt that a group should be formed and made responsible for the development of best practices recommendations on privacy in social networks.

The best practices recommendations for privacy in social networks are considered high priority/urgent due to the relatively low level of awareness by users and the high degree/opportunity for mis-use of private information in the future. Further, of the themes raised and discussed in the W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking the experts in the domain of privacy were well represented, leading to a relatively mature and concrete set of possible actions/recommendations.

One of the Best Practices privacy “recommendation sets” would focus on improved user experience and would be aimed at educating the end users of social networking technologies on the privacy issues.

Another set of Best Practices dealing with privacy would focus on the policies which social networking platform providers, community operators and network operators can implement in their infrastructure to protect the privacy of their community members’ data and lives.

Highly relevant papers on this topic include (these must be linked to the position papers to which they refer, contents reviewed more carefully, perhaps ranked/rated in order of likelihood to furnish first draft recommendations?):

Other in-scope topics

In parallel or in the future, discussions on best practices in the following domains can be envisioned, depending on the task force participants’ interest and influence:

Appropriate use/control of abuse of contextual data in social networks

Recommended methods of social network measurement

Including metrics for appropriate expression of social network size, activity level and value

The following position papers raise this issue:

Mobile user experience

User experience parity

Expectations of feature parity between PC and mobile access technologies

Target Audiences

The target audiences of the best practices group are:

  1. end users (all those who use social networks),
  2. developers of social networking platforms or technologies (e.g., software publishers),
  3. operators of social networks or social networking technologies (e.g, existing community operators, handset manufacturers), and and converged (Next Generation) network operators.


  1. A use-case documents (first one to target would describe when and how user’s privacy is exposed/unknown/uncontrolled)
  2. A report that describes the recommended best practices for a specific domain (e.g., privacy education for end users)
  3. A mapping (on-line resource) of current popular practices in domains of social networking which could be subject/benefit from improvement by way of best practices


Members are expected to introduce themselves and participate over the public list-serv.

Members should attend teleconferences, and send regrets if unable. The face-to-face meeting will be optional, but enjoyable.


This group primarily conducts its work on the public mailing list (archive). The group's Member-only list is[ similar to (archive)] The mailing lists will be a primary part of the communication both internally and externally.

A wiki such as this page, to permit communications and so that all can participate should be maintained, and a blog could be published periodically in order to let others be easily informed about the progress of the group.

Regular telephone meetings will be held monthly using the W3C's Zakim telephone/IRC facility.

In an effort to minimize costs, face-to-face meetings will be co-located with other meetings that a significant number of participants are attending.

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the best practices’ task force web page (e.g., this page).