OpenSocial: Future for Facebook, Concerns
OpenSocial, Google’s social networking platform standardization initiative, seems to have usurped Facebook’s usual share of media attention since the announcement on Wednesday—and with Facebook’s impending ad announcement, that’s a pretty remarkable feat.
But now at least one Facebook investor seems to see the right way to get all that lovely attention back: start talking about joining up with OpenSocial. CNET’s Caroline McCarthy reports that Facebook investor and board member Jim Breyer of Accel Partners is saying that a future collaboration is a possibility.
“Jim said that the company isn’t philosophically opposed to what Google is trying to do, and that its business model isn’t dependent on keeping its social network gated,” Kafka wrote in the Alley Insider post. “He also acknowledged that users will want to be able to port their data, networks, connections, etc., from Facebook to other networks, and vice versa, and suggested that something like that may be possible within a year.”
McCarthy makes some excellent points on what could very well happen if Facebook does sign on with OpenSocial:
Plenty of critics would see it as not only a concession of defeat, but also as a sign that a social-networking brand like Facebook may be destined to remain on the level of other social media sites rather than on a par with major Web presences like Google or Yahoo. . . . An OpenSocial partnership would, in a sense, place it among the rank and file in Google’s herd.
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only one who might want to be concerned about OpenSocial. Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read/WriteWeb lists his own concerns about OpenSocial:
- Is Google Exercising Leadership or Control?: Will Google be involved with and monitor all of these apps, or can the developers bypass Google and use the social networks and OpenSocial without Google’s involvement?
- Are These Write-Only APIs?: “Will one network be able to pull in bio, friend and interest data from another? . . . As some people have told me tonight, it may have been more accurate to call this ‘OpenWidget’ – though the press wouldn’t have been as good. We’ve been waiting for data and identity portability – is this all we get?”
- If This Is Good, Will Official Sanction Kill It?: “Why couldn’t this all be based on microformats and other existing open standards? Why the mysterious, brand-driven, limited APIs?”
Of course, my favorite comment on the RWW post reminded me that, as popular as apps, platforms and APIs are with developers & our ilk, they’re just bells and whistles for most users:
People didn’t join Facebook to add apps to their profiles, and they’re not going to migrate elsewhere for the sake of a different API. No one is going to think, “Well, my friends are all on Facebook, but Orkut lets me help some third-rate startup monetize its assets by scattering random widgetjunk across my public profile… so it’s Orkut for me!”
I have to agree: no matter how “open” or “social,” these apps will try to be, I just don’t see them being a selling point for prospective members. However, we should keep in mind that current members may really enjoy these options—and creating passionate users is just as important as converting new ones.
What do you see in the future for OpenSocial?