UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unifying the social landscape with OpenMe Tsao, Vincent


With the rapid rise of the popularity of online social networks (OSNs) in recent years, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of available OSNs. With newer OSNs attempting to draw users in by focussing on specific services or themes, it is becoming clearer that OSNs do not compete on the quality of their technology but rather the number of active users. This leads to vendor lock-in, which creates problems for users managing multiple OSNs or wanting to switch OSNs. Third party applications are often written to alleviate these problems but often find it difficult to deal with the differences between OSNs. These problems are made worse as we argue that a user will inevitably switch between many OSNs in his or her lifetime due to OSNs being incredibly fashionable things whose lifespan is dependent on social trends. Thus, these applications often only support a limited number of OSNs. This thesis examines how it is possible to help developers write apps that run against multiple OSNs. It describes the need for and presents a novel set of abstractions for apps to use to interface with OSNs. These abstractions are highly expressive, future proof, and removes the need for an app to know which OSNs it is running against. Two evaluations were done to determine the strength of these abstractions. The first evaluation analyzed the expressiveness of the abstractions while the latter analyzed the feasibility of the abstractions. The contributions of this thesis are a first step to better understanding how OSNs can be described at a high level.

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