W3C Reports on Social Networking
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released a report on the future of social networking. Based on a workshop convened by the W3C in January, which attempted to bring together industry actors to foster discussion, analyze risks and opportunities of the social networking industry and define plans for the future of the industry. 

The workshop examined the following topics:

  • The nature of less centralized and more distributed social networks architectures, including their design and possible business and technical challenges associated with distributed social networking.
  • The increase of contextual information associated with social networking users, its use and possible abuse.
  • The impact of context as well as existing lack of policies within networks on user privacy risks and the establishment of a Web of trust.
  • The tendency for existing social networking platforms to exclude those potential users with disabilities or constrained devices (e.g., mobile).

After processing more than 72 position papers from approximately 56 organizations, the consortium was able to draw the following conclusions.

  • There is a significant opportunity for social networks to reduce the detrimental effects of architectural silos by opening their closed communities for the benefit of users.
  • A lack of awareness among users surrounding the risks associated with social networking activity and social media publishing.
  • Many future business opportunities are/will be stifled by the lack of a convention and/or widely adopted protocol for the exchange of value for goods and services within communities.
  • There is need for specific outreach on social network feature/service accessibility and mobility matters to address the disparity between current implementations of social networks and the devices or capabilities of all users of the Web.

From these conclusions, the WC3 has drafted action items and next steps that respond directly, mostly promoting awareness, drafting best practices and continuing a focus on outreach on accessibility and mobility matters for social networking.

The hope is to help diverse social network actors "work together and resolve barriers to industry growth and stability." Based on the output of these various actions, another workshop on this topic could be planned in the future, for which participants, as always, are encouraged to discuss additional ways the W3C can build community around social networking interoperability.