Why OpenSocial Is Unlikely To Dethrone Facebook

from the where's-the-networking? dept

The announcement of Google's new OpenSocial API has generated a blizzard of commentary around the blogosphere. Yesterday Mike argued that it was a smart move on Google's part because it creates a broader web platform that will be more attractive than any one social network could be by itself. However, the various news reports I've read suggest that OpenSocial is missing probably the most important element of a social networking site: the networking. Most people don't join Facebook because they want to use the latest Facebook widget. They join because that's where their friends are, and because it offers basic functionality like messages and photos. Widgets are just icing on the cake.

The fundamental problem facing Orkut, Friendster, LinkedIn and the other social-networking also-rans is that people don't want to sign onto a dozen different social networking sites to keep up with all their friends. They want to sign up with a single site and see updates for all their friends in one place. As long as each social networking site is a walled garden, only allowing users to connect with other users on the same site, the largest sites will have a huge advantage because people will naturally gravitate to the site most of their friends use. On the other hand, if several sites found a way to interoperate, so that Friendster users could be friends with Orkut, MySpace, and LinkedIn users, less popular sites would be at a much smaller disadvantage.

Of course, achieving that sort of data sharing is much more difficult than simply agreeing on a common architecture for third-party widgets. Privacy would be a big concern, and it would be a lot of work to find a set of data formats that can gracefully accommodate the wide variety of information handled by different social networking sites. But achieving such interoperability would be a far more significant threat to Facebook than the features Google appears to be rolling out today. LiveJournal founder and Google employee Brad Fitzpatrick wrote in August about what an open social networking platform would look like. Let's hope he's hard at work making sure that OpenSocial 2.0 is focused on enabling the type of interoperability he describes in that essay.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: open, social graph, social networking, social networks
Companies: facebook, google

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2007 @ 9:20pm

    Re: What about myspace

    Well yeah, but I bet having millions of users makes it a helluva lot easier.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.