The web could become a friendlier place thanks to Google’s Social Graph API. This new service helps developers build applications that query public information about people and their relationships, saving users the effort of redefining their connections as they move from community to community, and from application to application.
This information is gathered from public profiles on existing social networks, from blogs and from suitably formatted web pages. The systems understands and indexes data coded in XHTML Friends Network microformat
to define relationships between people, or to define “me” relationships between an individual’s multiple profiles held on different systems.
In the video below Brad Fitzpatrick describes the API and some of its use cases.
Building on a growing base of semantic web technologies this service is another clear pointer to the direction the Internet is taking, with markup focussed on meaning rather than presentation, and applications able to work with and augment each others data as a matter of course. The API will affect social networks, who will need to choose the level of openness they are willing to support.
Though the system uses only public data, the power to query and analyze could affect the way you choose to present yourself online. It could also lead to some interesting situations where connected people perceive different qualities in their relationships. It’s not just how you link to your friends, it’s how they link to you. Are your ears burning?
To implement hCard you simply add some a few extra classes to your standard html markup to indicate which parts of your page contain address and contact information. This markup helps browser plugins and search engines understand your page.
The Operator plugin for Firefox automatically identifies the hCard information in any web page you visit and tucks it away in a toolbar menu ready for you to use to add a contact to your address book, or look up the address on your favorite mapping service..
hCard, and the other microformats, have been quietly establishing themselves over the past few years, and increasingly are being built into tools, services and applications. The potential benefits of adding a small amount of markup to give meaningful structure to contact information on a web page is well worth the effort.