The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has taken steps to form a Federated Social Web community group and has called for participation in this effort. The purpose of this assembly is to establish a set of community-driven specifications and a test-case suite for a federated social web.
But what exactly is a federated social web? StatusNet developer Evan Prodromou offers his simplified explanation:
A federated social web is specific: it means that there are distinct entities that control parts of the system, but those parts are connected with agreed-upon rules to make a pleasing and usable whole. Many Internet systems work this way. The World Wide Web is a federated document database. Documents are stored on different servers, but we get a single, clean interface through our browsers. Email is a federated messaging system; we send mail from one company to another without a second thought, because the federation is so smooth and painless (at least for end users).-- Evan Prodromou
You can see that such seamless integration is virtually nonexistent in current social web technologies; each individual site essentially has carved out its own entity and requires you to sign up and enter personal information, even though the same details were most likely already existent on many other social web sites.
From the point of view of a typical social web site, if you don't have an account on that site, you don't exist. The only way for your friends on that site to interact with you is if they invite you to join the site. Despite the fact that there are hundreds of other social networking sites on the Web, almost every single one works as if there were zero other social networks on the Web. –Evan Prodromou
Current protocols for the proposed federated social web include:
- Activity Streams
- Apache Wave (formerly Google Wave)
- Open Graph Protocol
Although the Federated Social Web is currently in an experimental phase at this point, the work being performed may eventually become standardized by the W3C or another standards body. If this does occur, the landscape of the social web may undergo radical change when this concept is introduced.