Microsoft partners with Facebook, Bebo, more to exchange contacts information securely using the Windows Live Contacts API

In a blog post this morning, John Richards, Director of Windows Live Platform at Microsoft, announces a set of new partnerships signed by Microsoft and 5 major social networks: Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged, and LinkedIn.  From the blog post:

Starting today, we will be working with Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged and LinkedIn to exchange functionally-similar Contacts APIs, allowing us to create a safe, secure two-way street for users to move their relationships between our respective services. Along with these collaborations, Microsoft is introducing a new website at that people can visit to invite their friends from our partner social networks to join their Windows Live Messenger contact list.

So what does this mean?  Currently, in order to populate a social network with information about your friends from say your Messenger buddies list or your Windows Live Hotmail account, you would need to provide your user info (email address) AND your password to the social network, which would then store in some fashion for some length of time that information as it logged into your mail or messenger account and imported your address book.  Not an inherently safe operation, but that’s the way it has been done.  As an example, here’s a screenshot of the current method for importing addresses into Tagged:


and the same for Bebo:


However now, using the Windows Live Contacts API beta in partnership with Microsoft, Bebo or Tagged (when it is implemented) or one of the other sites will instead take you to, where you will log in, and permission will be granted for the site to gain access to your contacts.  The site itself will never see your password.  This functionality should be live today for Facebook and Bebo, with the others to follow along in the coming weeks and months.  All of the contracts have been signed, it is just a matter of implementation on the sites’ part, and their providing Microsoft with APIs for the export capabilities.   Microsoft is apparently not done partnering, either.  In a phone conversation with Richards today, he mentioned that these partnerships were with “5 of the 6” major social networks, and that there would be more to come.  Will MySpace and others get on board?  There certainly doesn’t seem to be much downside. 

The partnerships also allow for accessing your social networking contacts information, and moving it into your Windows Live Messenger contacts store.  This action requires each networking site to provide Microsoft with APIs for gaining that information in a similar safe way.  At launch today, only Facebook will have this functionality, but all of the services have agreed, and will be announcing availability in the coming months.  By logging into, you will be presented with a list of services that you could import contact information from:

invite2messenger screenshot

If this service looks familiar, we told you about an early version of it running in the Netherlands.  That system allowed you to invite contacts from Windows Live Hotmail or Outlook, etc to your Messenger buddy list:


The Dutch site (, basically a trial for the new site, was launched last November.

Richards also talked quite a bit about “dataportability” today.  We’ve commented before on where Microsoft seems to be going with dataportability, and it does seem to be making an effort to promote safe secure use of not only its data, but the data of other social networks as well.  Microsoft has taken a firm stance against “screen-scraping“, and drilled in the necessity for security in dealing with contacts at a number of sessions at Mix08.  While there might be some advantage to partnerships such as these being in effect promotions of the Windows Live services on other sites, the security gained by doing the right thing here is to be commended.  Hopefully this kind of secure exchange of contact and other information catches on.