When I was involved in building a Social Networking web site, one of the things I wanted to provide to user’s was the ability to pack their suitcase, and move on.
I envisioned a simple HTML interface where a user could select individual information to move, or select all information. With a simple click of the mouse the entire user data – including history, friends, photos, blog entries, favorites, tags, etc would be placed into a pre-defined format and saved locally on the user’s hard drive – where they could either use the data to later restore their account to it’s previous state, or to move their data to a completely different Social Networking site.
Imagine if you were a MySpace user for two years, and had a lot of history and content, but for some reason you were no longer happy at MySpace – you would simply “pack your suitcase” then delete your MySpace account.
Now if you wanted to move to a different Social Networking site, like PageFlake, for example, you could just create a PageFlake account and “unpack your suitcase“. I envisioned it would be as easy as pointing at the local file and having the Web Service take care of the rest – importing whatever parts of your suitcase that were relevant to the new site. If, for instance, the new site didn’t provide blogging capabilities the user would be notified, and that part of the data wouldn’t be imported.
If a standardized suitcase were developed then the next logical thing would be for a web site to manage this data, and keep it updated across several Social Networking sites, widgets, etc. In effect the suitcase itself would feed changes via RSS to the various sites/widgets and/or applications the user allowed it to communicate with.
The bottom line is that it’s in everyone’s best interests to make it easy for users to manage, move, replicate or delete their data.