a few days ago, google rounded up a consortium of social networks not named facebook and launched an open API called OpenSocial for querying and working with the walled social graphs maintained by the respective social networks. as far as i can understand, programs can now be written using a common JS-based language such that the social graphs can be retrieved from the network they run in.
Check out a take from a web marketer Tom Hespos at iMedia Connection
the positives in my view are -
(a) programmers have one single way of working with social graphs, they don’t have learn multiple APIs. similar to the way the primitive get/post commands that form the foundations of the HTTP, this API defines protocol to obtain social graph information. kinda like java JNI (again, to my best understanding), programmers would love it.
(b) it has forced all the walled social networks to open up their social networks for programmers. in a way facebook did. this is a prerequisite to what i refer to as the social portal – see my prior post on this topic. with this kind of functionality, each social network can become a social portal.
(c) as innovative as facebook has been, it does provide some very credible competition.
and now the open questions -
(0) why didn’t everyone support a simplified version of facebook’s API? ha, i know.. naive question. let me put it this way.. if google ended up in bed with facebook, OpenSocial would’ve taken a bit longer to come out :-). after all, nothing “open” came out of google in the video realm after the YouTube acquisition.
(a) we’ve seen this movie before. faced with total dominance of microsoft on the client/server platforms, sun microsystems conjured up java in mid-90′s. it was also to be the write-once-run-anywhere utopic system, which obviously is anything but that. the standards went wild (beans, ejb, whatnot) and containers upon containers were built and money was made on technologies and standards that just didn’t find widespread acceptance. similarly, OpenSocial will most likely see wild uncontrolled growth as networks try to differentiate from the herd. standards aren’t meant to be standards forever and open is never meant to be open for too long – not when big money is up for grabs. look for new versions and flavors of the of the standard mushroom very soon.
(b) most importantly, consumers still wont have the benefit of a neutral social graph. identities of people on various networks are still going to be fragmented and not portable from one network to the other. the walled gardens stay firm.
(c) besides, why would anyone write the same app for two different networks? i would presume that if it works on one, it won’t work the same way in another network. would a facebook app work on myspace? no friggin’ way.
overall, i am still positive on this development. it’s a step in the right direction, as it forces the pace of innovation. it looks like more of an attempt by the band networks banding together to fight the facebook threat. and google would gladly accept the role of mentor and chief monetization officer of whatever this whole thing ultimately turns out to be (this seems very similar to the newspaper consortium that yahoo is pulling together).