A new open web API called OpenSocial enables developers to create social web applications that can run on any social network platform that has the Open Social interface standards. It is released by Google and a wide range of partners including Orkut, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Salesforce.com, Oracle, Viadeo, iLike, Flixster, RockYou, and Slide. The list is growing, you can read more about Open Social‘s business implications elsewhere including O’Reilly Radar, Techcrunch, Techmeme, New York Times, and Marc Andressen’s blog. It is confirmed that MySpace and Six Apart are also joining the club. No news from Facebook yet.
Apparently OpenSocial has a three part API that will enable people’s information flow on a network of service providers and third party applications across the web. Here is what they are and what they mean:
- Profile Information (user data) => Myself
- Friends Information (social graph) => My Relationships
- Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff) => My Life
As cheered elsewhere OpenSocial solves various problems for the three network actors:
- Service providers open their user database to other platforms. In turn they get more users (~100 million and more with MySpace) and more applications which generate more context (like in Facebook today). Obviously they increase their advertisement income significantly.
- Developers develop once, distribute on every social network. They provide context to platforms and in turn they get advertisement income (depending on the service provider’s policy).
- Users export their social graph to other services rather than re-declaring their friends again and again. They open their social relationships and their living activities to a variety of service providers and third party application developers. In turn they keep connected to their friends through various contexts, in other words they get “better services”.
So service providers will not OWN my data anymore?
First, what is “my data”? Is it my name? My education info? Is it my photos and videos? Is it my contact list? Is it how I am connected to my friends? Is it what I do together with my friends? Is it how I live? These are not clear.
Second, how much users get based on how much they give is also not clear. Our intellectual property that is generated by our labor, through our social relationships, and our living (activities) is not measurable by us but only by the service providers, who charge advertisers based on detailed stats. As these “networks of social networks” grow, complexity rises, and the value we generate becomes just more ambiguous for us.
UPDATE: OpenSocial API is up and hacked by some guy already. I am currently reading the protocols. From what I understand, Google servers are the gate keepers between queries among the social networks. This makes the data ownership issues even worst.