Windows Live teams up with social networks for contact portability

It's nothing revolutionary, but Microsoft's online media arm partners with five social-networking sites so that members can swap contacts.

Robert Scoble couldn't do it, but Windows Live can.

Microsoft's Web-app division announced Tuesday that it has partnered with five social networks--LinkedIn, Tagged, Hi5, Bebo, and yes, Facebook--on a new project to facilitate address book portability. The partner social networks have agreed to use the Windows Live Contacts API so that members can import Windows Live contacts to their respective sites, as part of the new data-portability strategy that Microsoft outlined at its Mix conference earlier this month.

In return, Microsoft has launched Invite2Messenger, a new service for users of those social networks so that they can invite the members of their friends lists to join Windows Live Messenger.

This replaces "scraping," a widely used process of diving into one account on a social network or e-mail client's database to export contacts to another. It's technically unauthorized, and occasionally social networks make a stink about it--as Facebook did when blogger Scoble tested out a script that exported his friends list to contact management service Plaxo and had his account temporarily banned--and Windows Live representatives have said that an authorized API makes the process more secure.

It's already accessible on Facebook and Bebo, which is in the process of being acquired by AOL, and will be worked into the other three sites within the next few months.