My partner Albert wrote a great post yesterday that I'd like to highlight. His going in assertion is:
It would a huge benefit to society if we can get with social networking to where we are with email today: it is fundamentally decentralized with nobody controlling who can email whom about what, anyone can use email essentially for free, there are opensource and commercial implementations available and third parties are offering value added services. All of that is made possible by the existence of standards such as SMTP and IMAP.
Albert goes on to suggest what some of the key open protocols might be; webfinger, pubsubhubbub, and salmon, and then asks for comments and suggestions, which he got on his own blog and also on Hacker News.
A comment on Hacker News says that App.net (which I backed along with many others) is using the Activitystream.es, Webfinger, RSS, pubSubHubbub protocols. So that's a good thing. Dave Winer, the father of RSS, also has been posting up a storm on this stuff.
I believe in open protocols and open APIs. That is what the web was built on and that is how we can best take it forward in the spirit it was given to us. All of this is geeky and only interesting to a tiny minority of web users. It is not a threat to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the other social platforms who serve a mass audience any time soon. But it is important stuff nonetheless and I am happy that folks are talking about it and building stuff.