« Plaxo Pulse and social network aggregators | Main | Best Buy moves into online video with Mydeo »

November 02, 2007


Eric Norlin

more on this:


Edwin Khodabakchian

Hi Don,

This is a great post. This assault looks very similar to how Yahoo tried to fight against eBay around auction.

Regarding the privacy concern, it seems that the focus of Open Social is not really about profile portability across Social Network. It is a more about the ability for developers to write an application once and be able to run it in any network - but for each network, the user will have to install the application and grant it the right to access your profile, your friend information and your activity stream.

But this is still a great coup for Ning and Google. Ning because it is going to allow them to finally showcase their flexibility (both on the front end and the back end) and Google because this could be the component which could help them take iGoogle to the next level.


I do give credit to Google for keeping a "year long program" with MySpace under wraps, but I fully agree that Facebook is not dead. Open Social is enjoying the initial support of many Google fans which may soon die down. I do think that it is a grand idea, and in the end Facebook may even end up joining. FB currently is in the lead based on the utility of the service and not the "openness" as 40MM people do not care about this type of service. Do they want easy connections of their data? Yes. Do they understand what API's are? Probably not.

James Byers

Facebook is signing up 200K users per day, so the 5000 departures will be replaced in about half an hour.


Aaron Fischer

Yeah its good for widget developers but thats not really what Social network users care about. After all FaceBook had 50 million users before they offered a way for people to develop widgets.


Well said.

Popular malls benefit popular stores, and while the analogy is an oversimplification in many respects, it gets to the essential truth here, IMHO.

Emre Sokullu

Great arguments, I agree with you. This is exciting news though, "World vs Facebook!!!" - that's why it gets so much coverage, understandable. We'll calm down in a week or so.

This was my immediate reaction: http://grou.ps/emresokullu.blog/?p=356 - I really can't understand why people keep saying F8 is not about pure web languages, it is actually; as you say, FBML is just an extension, and you have the choice to avoid using it via iframe or Flash (or Silverlight, not sure?) This is no different than using a set of APIs.

Jerome Paradis


it's refreshing to read your point of view.

I like the OpenSocial idea, but even with the API documentation now online, I have more questions than answers.

One thing that has not been discussed in depth is the privacy issue. I've read in their doc that Google will moderate the feeds à la Facebook to avoid application spam. But, other than that, I don't know. For example, most neophyte Facebook users I talk to have a lot of privacy questions and do not know about the total granular control you can have to protect your information on Facebook. I wonder how OpenSocial will manage these issues across different properties.

From the basic features I see in OpenSocial, for the moment, the underlying goal seems to be an information distribution infrastructure for friends. In another way, a way to discover what your friends are doing on a multitude of Web sites. Or, in yet another way, a viral method for Web sites to promote themselves.

It seems attractive for developers and marketers. We will have to see what it means for the end-users

Jeremy Toeman

Don - congrats on writing one of the few sane analyses of the Facebook v OpenSocial issue... I couldnt agree more. Users don't care about open vs closed (iPod anyone?), they care about the services, features, and functionality.

Dan Lester

Agreed, Don. In my post www.allfacebook.com/2007/11/opensocket-a-thought-experiment/ I argue (in a roundabout way) that Facebook's real strengths have little to do with their platfom. I don't even see that Facebook accepting OpenSocial widgets would be to their detriment.

Moreover, I discuss the possibility of someone other than Facebook implementing an OpenSocial container as a Facebook app. I'll have a look at the new API and perhaps set up an 'open source' project to build such a thing if there's enough interest. This would be by way of petition to Facebook - obviously it would become obsolete as soon as Facebook decide to implement OpenSocial themselves.

But perhaps we can demonstrate that users love Facebook for its 'presentation' (news feed etc.) They need to stay ahead in the things they've always done best.

Steve Severance

This relates to what I call the hot girl principle. When I was in high school I used ICQ for my instant messaging. A clearly superior product in its day. When I got to college in 2001 I discovered that I was about the only person there using ICQ. All the girls used AIM. So about a third of a second later I switched. What does this mean?

Most facebook users (myself included) don't care about platforms, architectures, or Google's opinion of how social networking should be. Elsewhere there has been talk of social network fatigue. I have 3 (facebook, myspace and linkedin). For the most part I find the widgets to be not useful, at least across myspace and facebook.

So while I realize the technical genius of the Open Social efforts I just yawned and went on with my day, because unless the girls start going somewhere else we will all stay with facebook.

Dennis Howlett

Good post Don - at last someone asking the hard questions. I have to say I found the TechCrunch reporting and following pretty meagre. The questions you raise re: ID management etc are ones I discussed at ZDN in the context of a business play but I see no fundamental difference in that and consumer: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett/?p=232

If anyone other than Google had been leading this announcement, many would have ignored it as little more than an intent to do something rather than something with real meat on the bone.

Mike Hrycyk

I think that for the most part you and your commenters are correct, FB'ers aren't in it for the technology they're there for the ability to connect to their friends in an environment that makes it easy and enjoyable to do so. FB's already huge userbase, their newsfeeds and just above everything already make this so.

i guess the one thing that i see the opensocial widgets helping to do is allowing a small portion of addiction to port more easily to another social network. i know that a lot of my FB friends are kind of addicted to the stupidest little FB apps (myself included). these apps, for the most part i don't really see them as a destination pull for FB really. instead you have people who log on to FB to see if they have interaction available from their friends (either through FB itself or one of the apps) and then while they are there, they just fritter away a little time on the apps. 'a little time' that may end up being hundreds of page views a day.
with open social it becomes a lot easier for the common apps from FB to put themselves on every other social app out there. so if one of those social apps can somehow position itself well enough to start drawing away FB users, then this will be one less hurdle to the conversion stream.

in effect though, in doing this, social networks are going to trend towards a more standardized function set and interface to support the very functions that people have fallen in love with in the successful apps in FB. as soon as the app field becomes level and standard features become ubiqitous it's going to be the app that has the network (FB and maybe Myspace) that has the draw for a new user and the app that can make it all feel easy and fun that will keep them (my money's on FB for this - myspace may have a huge headstart on social apps in general but they never actually translated into a well developed application that is coherent and usable. FB is the next generation, showing us that having a vision as you develop, rather than a willy-nilly cluster fook approach won't necessarily get you there).

i like your post. glad someone finally said it. opensocial is just one more step in social app evolution.


I agree with everything you have stated. I love when stories stay ______Killer. Happens all the time but never kills. This new API means nothing for end users. Its all geek speak. Companies are getting involved because it makes development easier- not too mention they want the Google press coverage.

Joe Duck

Hold on here Don. I don't usually see you doing damage control for MS, but this is a mini-disaster for Facebook and to some extent MS as "winner" in the Facebook sweepstakes last week.

Facebook's power was in it's potential, not in the 50 million user base which is fairly small in the grand scheme. Facebook's growth projections were predicated on the fact they were:

1)Competitive with Myspace as a strong "number two" social network.
2)Catering well to open architecture demands from developers.
3)Poised to gain the most as social networking becomes a dominant online paradigm.

That was 2 days ago. Now, Facebook is weak on all those fronts.

C'mon, didn't MS ask for their money back?

David K

Don - most people don't care about internal combustion engines either. But they certainly have a vested interest in the results of internal combustion engines, namely the ability to have motor vehicles at their disposal. You are 100% correct - the majority of Facebook users (or Myspace users, for that matter) will not care about the OpenSocial platform because it has yet to be applied as a part of a meaningful user experience.

Facebook's biggest value differentiator has been the ability of third-party applications which leverage the social graph data. OpenSocial is a direct answer to this, but its primarily a value in terms of what third-party applications may arise from this new development. Whether there is any value to those applications themselves has yet to be seen, of course. But the cause and effect may lead FB consumers to an outside option in pursuit of a meaningful user experience (be it Google, Myspace or a perhaps Ning.) That's what makes OpenSocial an interesting (albeit unclear in the long run) development.

Don Dodge

Joe, Lets review your 3 points again next week. There will be more news to ponder, while the stories of this week fade from memory.

I don't really have a rooting interest in this game...just an observer. I just find it amazing how quickly the blogosphere declares any new thing from Google to be the killer of______ fill in the blank. In this case Facebook.

Facebook was a runaway success long before they opened up the platform to developers. They don't really need hundreds more widgets to be successful. In fact, the viral spread of useless widgets may do more to hurt Facebook's user experience than help it.

Facebook is not stupid. They have done a great job building the community and keeping the focus on the user experience. They were the leaders in opening up their platform to developers, and they won't sit back and watch...they will continue to improve.

Google did a clever move with OpenSocial, and worked hard to get other social networks and developers on board. Good work! But, is it the death of Facebook, or even a disaster for them? No, I don't think so. Lets review this next week, and again in a month or so.

Mark Hendrickson

This may have been noted elsewhere in the comments, but per section "Did Facebook users approve this?": It's my understanding that OpenSocial doesn't expose your Facebook friend or profile info to anyone, first of all, because Facebook hasn't signed on, and second of all, because it's just an application development platform. So even if Facebook does sign on, I doubt profile info will be exportable to other social networks (although this may be possible if developers just route the info they collect from one social network to another). In any case, OpenSocial doesn't seem designed for this. That would take a much larger, different type of initiative to port social graph info across networks.

Joe Duck

Don sounds fair to let this all settle before calling in the .com coroner.

I would agree that Facebook isn't "dead", but I think their potential/value dropped by about 90% yesterday because people will stop flocking to Facebook when they can join social networks at their favorite sites and then carry those social profiles around with them. Open Social means that the socialization of websites is going to accelerate dramatically, and I see that as the huge challenge to Facebook's future viability.

Andrew Fife


>Are Facebook users going to cancel their >account? Nope, I doubt it.

I think that Facebook's growth is a clear example that social networks are not as sticky as metcalfe's law might predict. It seems to me that a lot of MySpace users converted to Facebook at a time when folks were hailing MySpace's network effect as an unassailable barrier to entry. And we go back a bit further didn't MySpace eat Friendster's lunch?

I've no idea how this will all play out, but I think we have 2 clear examples that challenge the notion that Facebook (or any social network) has any lasting user loyalty.


Jeff O'Hara

One word, Momentum. Facebook has it, myspace is losing it. Opensocial, while very compelling to developers, doesn't mean squat if the users don't move. Myspace is still ugly and they have to rectify that. If I were a betting man, i'd probably bet on facebook. That's all move along now.


Facebook is probably not going to be Dead In the US/Canada,..etc. But, as a Developer trying to target Indian Consumers (Orkut is huge in India , 50 Million users in India alone), Opensocial API is a blessing! I am pretty sure that Facebook is going to have a tough time growing its userbase in Countries like India.

Prokofy Neva

You are totally on point here. I am not one of the 5,000 geek devs but I follow what they do. And I don't care a huge amount, because only about 2 percent of the production of the widget-makers at best are non-buggy enough and compelling enough to be usable. That's ok.

What I like about Facebook is that it is protected from Google, and you can opt-out from Google (in theory) with your private information and your attention and intention data which in theory they can't scrape.

I like having a place where I don't have to be Googlized to find out information or listen to a person's expert opinion.

You are absolutely right that with Facebook, we have a *user community that the geeks cannot morph or nerf -- at least not yet*. They can't force us to change or move just because *they* (those 5,000) think there is something better or cooler that they enjoy in their nerdy little brains.

Re: Mark Henderson -- I do hope this is the case, that Facebook, because we've opted out of Google scraping, isn't open to OpenSocial. We need to hear some clarification of this.

Fight the power, stand up Face Nation!

Daniel Feygin


Astute observations (Edwin's correction notwithstanding), however I believe you missed the essence of what OpenSocial is.

Google was nominated by OpenSocial launch partners to enforce the OpenSocial TOS. Every OpenSocial implementer is subject to Google's control by agreeing to be bound by policies and specs, which can freely change at Google's will. The whole setup appears reminiscent of the job Eric Schmidt did at Sun, fighting Microsoft with Java's legal framework. Don't you think?



Great points. Facebook has the best interface for users and it's very simple to set up a network. If my network was fully portable I'd still probably choose facebook

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter