The Important Part: The people at Facebook describe your list of “friends” (contacts) as being your “social-graph.” Others use the term “social network” to describe in broad terms, your network of connections with other people. Chances are, you call that list of connections your “address book.” In the previous century, you may have called it your Rolodex. Your ability to export that list of contacts from your computer out to web services (geek word of the day – “portability”) is one of the building blocks of a future web where you can go onto any new site or service and instantly discover everyone using it who may be a friend of your second-cousin, Herbert. Today, Google announced that the newest update of the Mac operating system includes a preference in the “Address Book” program that will keep the Mac address book synch’d with the contact list on ones Google G-mail account. Why is this significant? There are lots of really smart people and groups working on standards and practices related to how someone “asserts” their online identity and their connections with others — and how web services should respect how individuals utilize such personal data. However, until the day comes when all of those standards and practices are worked out, your personal e-mail address and your phone number are serving as a form of “de-facto” identifier of who you are. Likewise, your list of e-mail contacts are filling the gap on identifying your social network. And until the powers-that-would-like-to-be all agree upon what your portable “social network/graph” is going to be and how it’s going to work, your address book has become a stand-in. That’s why, when you sign onto a new social networking site, they ask if you want to allow them to bounce your e-mail contact list up against their list of registered users. That way, you can discover who among your contacts are already using the service.
Take Away: For Apple Address Book users who used to have to “export” and “upload” your contact list manually, you now have one-click portability (and on-going syncing) to your Google G-mail contacts list of your most important “social graph.” And from your Google contacts, you can blast that social graph to infinity and beyond (or whatever Google Friend Connect is).
Related rambling: About a year ago, I talked about the concept of e-mail address as universal identifyer in a lengthy post.
[Photo credit: jcroach, Flickr.]