[CalConnect Fall 2007] vCard Workshop – Intro and Overview

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Dave Thewlis, in his intro to the day, notes that vCard is one of those things that everyone complains about, but nobody has stepped up to try to fix. The goal of the day is to try to understand what the problems are and what some likely approaches might be to solve them.

Cyrus is giving the Overview of where we are today with vCard.

vCard history – was developed by Versit Consortium in 1995, based on X.500, brought into text format as IETF standard.

Transferred rights to Internet Mail Consortium in 1996. Vcard 2.1.

Later IETF standardized vCard 3.0 in 1998. A few IETF extensions have been done since then to add specific fields like Jabber ID etc. But hasn’t been any formal enhancement work since then.

vCard is in heave use today as a contact interchange formate – most desktop email programs support it, mobile devices, etc. There are spinoffs like hCard microformat standards, Jabber XML variant. The hCard people did a detailed analysis of the vCard format and what the problems are with it.

Issues – Interoperability – we need all apps and devices to exchange data without loss or corruption in either direction. That’s where users experience problems.

We’re seeing new technologies that need to use contact info in new ways – like social networking. We need extensibility in the format that allows adding new parameters while maintaining interoperability. Lack of formal extensibility (e.g. a registry for new properties) has led to loss of intereop.

Why are we here? Various groups interested in improving the state of vCard interoperability. The IETF are also assessing interest. Goal is to determine what the interest is and what steps we should take to move the work forward.

Experiment – let’s all exchange vCards right now…. We ought to be able to easily do this. Instead we all still have paper business cards – our goal should be to put the business card scanner people out of business.

Questionnaire comments – about 20 received.

Multiple vCards in one file is not always supported

Better UTF-8 support. Relates to internationalization issues.

Easier way to drag and drop vCards between apps

Incompatible TEL attributes on mobiles. Or work, home, preferred, etc. Attributes don’t make sense together.

What extensions are supported? distinguished name. lists of x- properties, many IM related. Do we want to go out and survey what x- properties are out there and figure out which should be standardized?

What are the alternative contact formats? XML formats with SDKs. CSV variants (Outlook, Tbird, et al), LDIF, Updateable vCard (goes back to an address book service – keeping vcards up to date over time), LDAP schema, RDF/XML.

Things to consider: Consider issues arising from use of hCard microformat; Sync IOP issues caused by current limitations; Lack of groups; Linking vCard info to other directories and repositories; get vCard IM and Calendar extensions deployed.

Other issues: Get everybody on same version (mobile systems still tend to use vCard 2.1); Use for things other than people (organizations, venues, etc).

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