Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Google OpenSocial not everything its made out to be

TechCrunch was first to break the story, Google plans open an API alliance for Social Networks: Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle. While the media is chalking this up as a Facebook killer, its really Google trying to play catch-up. There's at least 2 huge problems with a federated approach to social network platforms.

1) Every network has it own culture: from a developer perspective that's ten times worse than each network having its own API! Worse because technical problems can be overcome with more technology and more investment, but if your desired audience is fragmented across multiple social networks, you are not going to get traction.

2) Multiple identities: millions of people belong to one or more of these networks but using different identities. I am not talking about the software problem of mapping your identity from one network to another. I am saying I keep my Friendster and my LinkedIn identities separate for good reasons. And the last thing I want is some app from some unknown 3rd party provider being able to connect the dots.

On the other hand, this is very good for Facebook developers. Now, your facebook app can offer you the option of pulling in data from any other social network. You no longer even have to leave Facebook.

Its should also be great for consumers and thats where Google deserves the credit. If it is done right, hopefully consumers won't have to enter the same data twice, using different interfaces. If Google cares about privacy consumers will have full control over how data is used. Hopefully, what it doesn't become is an ad network that can spy on you regardless of which social network
you are using.


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