Social media is no longer just a way to connect with family and friends, or a way for businesses to deliver news and connect with customers. Business have started to take advantage of social interaction to reach employees and collaborate on projects, but with today’s diverse IT systems, BYOD policies and remote workers, crucial information can get lost when different systems don’t connect, according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

To bring the power of social media to the enterprise, the W3C and the OpenSocial Foundation have joined forces to push for social Web application interoperability.

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“Though social networking is immensely popular, we cannot achieve the full potential of the social Web without interoperable open and royalty-free standards for data portability, identity, security and privacy,” said Ian Jacobs, head of communications at the W3C.

The W3C has launched a new Social Activity initiative to develop standards that would make it easier to develop and integrate social applications with the Open Web Platform. Social Activity standards will include vocabularies for social apps, activity streams, embedded experiences and in-context actions, and protocols to federate social information, according to the W3C.

With social Web interoperability, “businesses will be able to leverage social information more easily and provide innovative services to customers,” said Jacobs. “They will be able to deploy, integrate and exchange social applications more easily and at lower cost, within the firewall as well as with partners.” And it isn’t only businesses that can gain from the interoperability, according to Jacobs; individuals will be able to regain control over how they share social data and developers will be able to create apps at lower costs that meet user needs.

“Developers will not have to learn and work around the edge cases of dozens of different social network APIs,” he said. “Instead, they can concentrate on making great software with a single API to different server back ends.”

As part of the new activity, a Social Web Working Group has been set up to deliver a social data JSON-based syntax that would enable the transferring of social information across different social systems; a social API that will define a specification for a client-side API; and a federation protocol.

A Social Interest Group has also been set up to focus on coordinating messaging around social at the W3C and formulate a broad strategy that would allow social business and federation.

“OpenSocial is very excited to support and participate in this new W3C Activity,” said John Mertic, president of the OpenSocial Foundation. “The OpenSocial Foundation exists to break down barriers between the often-siloed systems people rely on at work. We do this because, today more than ever, people need to be able to effortlessly connect on the job to get things done, and barriers between the systems they rely on prevent seamless collaboration. This W3C Activity provides additional focus and resources to ensure that all enterprise applications can be social together.”