We Need OpenSocial

December 14, 2007 Filed under: Web-trends

I want to second a plea lobbed by CNET's Caroline McCarthy last night: "Don't give up on OpenSocial, Google!"

This past week, three major announcements were made which looked like blows to the chance that OpenSocial -- the Google-led open source response to the Facebook Platform -- may succeed.

The deal is: initial news of OpenSocial rang out like the sound of the Saints marching in to save the day. As a producer of a small-time platform, I loathe the idea of living in a winner-take-all word with a monolithic social site like Facebook being that winner. I want openness, interoperability, and decentralization. OpenSocial is supposed to provide that.

So, with news that three of the biggest members of the supposed OpenSocial alliance (Bebo, LinkedIn, and Friendster) were either building their own platform silo or joining forces with Facebook (links above), I can see why Caroline and others are getting a little worried about the fate of the one platform which looked like it could unseat Facebook.

Don't be mistaken, the stakes are high here. While I can see how joining on to a quickly maturing platform like Facebook's is attractive to other platforms (10,000 apps ready to port into your platform!), the dangers of piling on to a proprietary and deeply opinionated platform are large.

Think about all the innovation that hasn't happened in the PC market because Windows was the dominant platform (OS) for so long. Now, think about how much innovation has come out of open source OS Linux. The reason PCs are tremendously good at boring work applications and terrible at creative applications is because the Windows closed platform is driven by MSFT's focus on the workplace. The same will apply to Facebook and the innovation which can come out of platforms if they join self-interested Facebook's platform.

And don't get me wrong: it's more than okay in my book for a business to foster its interests -- duh -- but when an industry does this, it's damn frightening.

What happens when BricaBox gets big and we want to introduce standards for content/mash-up portability? How do we introduce OpenContent? If OpenSocial is alive and strong, we'll have something to build with, grow with, contribute to, and lead with. But with Facebook in control, there's no opportunity to add to the set of standards without convincing Facebook it's in their interest too.

So, let this be my pile-on call to Google to keep pushing on and to get everyone back on board who started on board, and even more people on board to really make this thing happen. The future of the web as the platform depends on it.

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