The twittersphere and blogosphere are afire with talk about Google's recently announced OpenSocial. I'm not blown away - given the massive amounts of buzz marketing, I was expecting something more transformative. As it is now, OpenSocial is just a way to make social network applications portable between different identity silos. But it does nothing to break those silos. That's going to be the big leap forward.
In the spirit of my recent Facebook Manifesto,here's my "Tips of the Hat/Wags of the Finger" to OpenSocial (nod to Stephen Colbert):
Tips of the Hat to OpenSocial
- Its open, as in "open door" (as opposed to "open sky"). There's almost never anything bad about this. It would be nice to see the Open Social specs be owned and shepherded more by the community ("open sky") moving forward.
- It makes the life of the developer easier in general with a simple, clean, extensible API in a "least common denominator" environment.
- It enables the long tail of developers by reducing the cost of development and distribution. A small guy now doesn't have to engage in separate development efforts for each social site, so the small guy can compete with the bigger guys who can afford to have separate development efforts tailored for each social network.
Wags of the Finger to OpenSocial
- It actually reinforces identity and social network silos by removing the pain point for developers. Before OpenSocial, developers and users were aligned in the shared pain of fragmented user networks across multiple social sites. Developers had to develop separate applications and "chase the users", and users had to use multiple sites to meaningfully reach the full span of their real world social networks (often with a bunch of painful replication drudgery). Now, developers don't feel nearly the same pain - "chasing the users" is not a lot easier, and I would expect the call from the developer community for portable social networks to be quieted somewhat, at least in the short term.
- Again, because identity is not portable, there is still lock-in to social networks. OpenSocial's use of the word "open" in this context is annoying.
- OpenSocial apps could be confusing to users because the same app may be available across multiple social networks (and social apps) - how does a user understand the fact that their friend Bob shows up on the UberOpenSocialApp when they are using MySpace, but doesn't show up when using LinkedIn? And then, do they have to add Bob again not only on LinkedIn, but also on the UberSocialApp running in the context of LinkedIn? It makes the "importing my friends yet again" problem even worse, because now you've got to import them not only to new social networks, but to new instances of OpenSocial apps on those new networks. I'm sure there will be a lot of thinking about this - the story here is probably going to be cleared up somehow...
In any case, I'm certainly glad to be living in interesting times! More blogging to follow, I'm sure...