Walled Social Networking Sites are Dead


Lucky Dip

Well we knew it was coming, Google told us a few months back. So now we get to see the details of . The media have been all over this, here and here and finally here all a buzz that MySpace is in on it. OpenSocial is a method (API) which presents a standard way for developers to build widgets that can pull base information and functionality from an existing Social Network that you are signed up for and place it on another centralised Social Networking Site tha you tend to use. The bottom line with all this of course is that the information available is restricted at present to the very general such as:

  • People and Friends API – view and update People Profiles and Friend relationships.
  • Activities API – view and publish “actions” in the OpenSocial platform
  • Persistence API – view and update key/value content using AtomPub GData APIs with a Google data schema

With the more specific using the relevant sites API.

So What’s  the Deal

So what’s the big deal with all this, you could mashup APIs into other social applications before. Yes you could, but each social network tended to have their own API with its own quirks and “special needs”. What OpenSocial does is apply a standard across the board that you can easily use (its all HTML and JavaScript based on the client side). So you only have to develop the code for a widget once to apply it across a number of social networks. Mind you it’s only a select number of partners at this stage, lets hope Google keep it open.

Is this a direct attack on the walled garden of Facebook and the semi closed nonstandard APIs of the various Yahoo social networking sites. Oh yeah you bet it is. Google are leveraging the smaller niche players into one force by presenting a platform with which they can integrate their services across each others networks. This is a much greater reach and leverage than the walled garden of Facebook. What will Yahoo, do, sit and watch, or will they present an alternative

Why is this important. Consider the average social networking site that is around today. It’s basically about making the site as sticky as you can so the audience will return and bring their friends into site to. Or better yet migrate on mass with all their friends and make your SNS the focus of their online community. More people returning every day the more adverts that can be sold. Okay it’s a basic model, doesn’t apply for applications like Twitter, but you get my gist.

Take it to the Next Level

But take it to the next level, you have your own site (page on a social networking site of choice) that you can integrate into any exisiting social networking site you are signed up for, this is OpenSocial as it stands now.

Lets step it up a little. You can take the elements and services that a range of sites offers within your Social Networking Metaverse and if your friends are signed up for the same site (via openID I hope) then they can see or use information from them on separate site, (via OAuth agreements, I hope) not from the main site you are on and present that with your information on your site. And hence the information you have just mashedup can be extended and used by another of your friends centralised on a different social network.

Doing this would remove the need for all your friends to be signed up for all the same networks.

Lets make it better, say we pull this information to your desktop via a localised widget on your computer. Now this brings in the question where are Apple and Microsoft on OpenSocial. Besides the fact Microsoft just wants to advertise with Facebook. Is this the squaring off to Yahoo, Microsoft, Google in each corner of an unholy triumphant.

Social Networking Metaverse

All in all we end up with a stepping away from the centralised social networking model with everyone in a same like social networking metaverse. To one where we will not need to have more than one level of social networking connection over a SNS to the people we are networking with.

You just access all the information you wish via your preferred SNS provider or your own blog (maybe), it’s from your site, hence you also access all your friends information or services from the same place. It’s not a portal, the information is pulled to you from service sites you may never have seen. Okay lets not concern ourselves over the security issues at the moment, we can get around those I’m sure.

It gets to the extent that putting together this type of modularised site is just a matter dragging of dropping the modules/widgets of the relevant external information.

What do you think, will OpenSocial start to make people think beyond the vertical social networks into a meta widget extension of the API turn the entire web into one huge mashup, to the extent we can’t see the beginning of one section or the end of another? Or is this a pipe dream or nightmare?

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