Online Identities and Social Mapping: Thoughts and Presentations



Hi! My name is Jonathan Vanasco. I'm the Founder/CEO FindMeOn, Inc (aka - an Online Identity company based in New York City. FindMeOn pioneered many of the concepts regarding Online Identity, Social Graph / Data Portability , and a bunch of other stuff. We rarely get credit, but we were presenting Open Source projects to roomfuls of people and have patent applications on file dating long before any of the major players in the field ever existed.

With the significant amount of attention now shifting to the realm of online identities - and increasing buzzworthyness of words like 'aggregation', 'social graphs' and 'platform' - I've decided to start this repository of essays and presentations I've given on the subject over the past few years.

Our core technologies revolve around a concept my colleagues have termed "Social Mapping"- an area which essentially covers the intersections of what people commonly refer to as 'The Social Graph', 'People Search', and 'Identity Aggregation'. We found these areas to be more tightly integrated with one another than most people believe, and feel that this term makes the most sense to people we converse with.

FindMeOn hasn't actively developed consumer internet products since Feb 2007. Instead we have been focusing on our institutional products and Intellectual Property portfolio - both of which are stronger than ever. Identity Research is a way of giving the general public a 'behind the scenes' look at some of the innovations we've made over the past few years.

Core Beliefs

User Privacy and Transparency are core beliefs of FindMeOn and myself. Many startups are founded on a cool idea, which is then monetized and eventually causes privacy concerns. With FindMeOn we've had the luxury of knowing not just the kind of data we can generate, but the value/application of that data, and potential causes for alarm or abuse. As you read through this microsite, please keep our core beliefs in mind.

I. Social network data has immense value

Social Networks have immense utility for Users and Advertising Interests alike.

Users enjoy networking online, and find tools, aggregators, statistics useful to their everyday lives. It's a fast, fun and efficient way to keep in touch with friends and family, find new music, and explore interests. As new users embrace the internet, and existing users branch out over different networks, this data grows astronomically.

Advertisers and Consumer Marketers have been struggling to harness and interpret this information, but they're finally getting it. I keep hearing people claim Google created OpenSocial to combat Facebook - that's just silly. Google created OpenSocial to better monetize social networks for ads; no one at Google or the partner networks really care about the APIs or widgets themselves - what they do care about is how the underlying framework will turn the information it generates into advertising efficiency. Facebook's continued attempts at easing privacy rules are rooted in similar reasons - the more data that is free and published for users, means a richer and richer source of potential advertising intelligence.

II. User privacy is a mandate, not an afterthought

Nothing is a true solution unless it addresses user privacy. Raw / Personally Identifiable user data should never be sold/rented/exposed or otherwise transferred from one system to another without the user's explicit and cognizant approval - a hidden clause in a clickwrap agreement is not sufficient.

People constantly tell me "I've been waiting for a single service that will let me manage all of my contacts, see all of their websites, and..." - and I am increasingly amazed at how shortsighted that train of thought is. It would be a great service - I prototyped one in 2005, and countless others have before me - its not terribly hard. The correct solution to this problem however, and one that cost us nearly 2 years on UI issues, is to take into account the realms of privacy that one must respect when integrating different online identities and lenses. Just because someone wants to see every site I have online doesn't mean that I want them to be able to.

III. The future is Data Portability. Data Sportability is a waste of time.

Data Portability is about liberating content from the networks and letting the users truly own their own content. It's a great ideal, because it allows for networks to focus on their User Experience and their Key Differentiators -- not on accounts, retention, or gaming/exploiting their users. A lot of companies tout a belief in Data Portability, but their offerings are everything /but/ that:

When products are designed to only be open as-little-as-possible to offer a PR release against competitors, when they are intentionally crippled, or when they can obviously and easily be more open -- they are not offering true portability, they are feigning it. I call phenomena Data Sportability - as its not about freeing user data, but being flashy enough to make consumers think that is happening.



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