The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) recently released its social web specifications for the OMA Social Network Web (SNeW) Enabler. What is it? And what does it mean for the future of social networks and the mobile web?
Open Mobile Alliance
The Open Mobile Alliance, founded in 2002, helps to remove barriers to mobile interoperability. It supports a seamless and easy to use mobile experience for users and a market environment that encourages competition through innovation and differentiation. It's a noble goal for sure, but one that isn't always easy — considering that it relies on bringing together wireless vendors, information technology companies, mobile operators and application and content providers to accept solutions based on open standards.
Many companies, including Sprint, Sony Mobile and Ericsson have already implemented OMA specifications. Most recently, the OpenSocial Foundation, a standards body dedicated to advancing the social web through community innovation and open source, announced it, too, had released enhancements to its social business applications to ensure interoperability.
The OMA has developed the Social Network Web (SNeW) Enabler for federating social networks, which allows large-scale deployment and interoperability of SNeW clients and SNeW servers in a timely manner. The idea is that by guaranteeing social network federation, users can easily communicate with users on other social networks using their mobile number, as well as by migrating their data across providers. Why does this matter?
It Affects Your Privacy
As great as online social networks are for connecting people, they have consistently challenged individuals' rights to privacy. As social networks proliferate across countries, it's often neither clear nor easy to determine who owns the content that is shared and what laws regulate these networks.
Last year, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, which upholds strict laws on data protection, gave consumers significant rights to limit the way companies use their information and challenged how Facebook and Google collect information about its users. Under German law, media services, including Facebook, must offer users the choice of using a pseudonym. While it won an argument over pseudonyms, Facebook offered users the opportunity to use nicknames, turned off facial recognition for all European users last year and planned to delete all face recognition templates for existing users in Europe.
Cases like this shed light on the conflicts between social networks and the countries in which they operate. Not only do they upset the balance, but they present unique challenges for businesses as well as the technical elements upon which these social networks are built.
Mobile Means Data
There is an immense amount of data that has resulted from the popularity of online social networks. Everything a user posts, likes, comments on and more is a piece of data that can be leveraged by advertisers and consumer organizations. Managing it all is not easy and streamlining its collection to adhere to specific guidelines is even harder. When mobile was added into the equation, analysis by the OMA discovered that mobile access to online social networks (OSN) suffered from incomplete support for several elements of the mobile service environment.
The Social Network Specifications began to tackle these inconsistencies by reusing existing and popular open specifications from the social web industry or reusing existing standardized network technologies and services provided by mobile network operators.
Mobile is Here to Stay
While mobile is becoming more and more popular — for many it's the only way to access the web. Considering that 200 million Facebook users are mobile only -- meaning that they use only their mobile phone to access the social network — there's no time like the present to ensure that way mobile subscribers share and engage with content and one another is optimized. In a blog post for Smith Micro, Jonathan Horvath, its Director of Enterprise Product Management, Mobility Management Solutions writes about the importance of being standard:
The mobile world is itself mobile — constantly changing, evolving, and expanding. Companies can no longer afford to use solutions that are not able to be expanded and customized on-demand. In fact, as their mobility increases, companies are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to bridging the gap between corporate and personal needs. They are looking for solution providers, not point products."
New Specifications for Standardization
According to the scope of the Social Network Web Enabler, the requirements and reference architecture allow for interoperability between clients and servers and server-to-server federation of OMA compliant OSN supporting features related to profile discovery and publication and sharing of contents, activities and reactions. For instance, users must be able to follow or unfollow another user's activities and reactions on the social network; and allow a user to delete specific activities and reactions performed previously. Many of these requirements are spread out across a variety of categories, such as
- High-Level Functionality
- High-Level Management
- User-Level Management
- Device-Related Functionality
- Device-API Functionality
- Security and Privacy
Ultimately, the goal of the SNeW Enabler is to provide mobile social network service to the end user, while enabling access to data collected by third party applications based on user permissions. OMA has already been instrumental in developing a standard for handling 2D barcodes that can help mobile phone users find websites more easily.
Just as companies need to design website according to Federal accessibility standards, as well as those requirements put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium, so must they develop mobile applications and online social networks with the mobile user in mind. Within an ever expanding global marketplace, where different devices proliferate at different rates and social networks exist across boundaries and borders that might otherwise restrict information sharing and govern compliance, it's especially important to build not only for the global mobile web you have right now, but the one you're building for the future.
Title image by Mr. Reborn55 (Shutterstock).