Here's another take on Google's OpenSocial.

Orkut, LinkedIn, Ecademy, and all the rest simply couldn't compete with Facebook's API technology. There's just no way we could reverse engineer it and rebuild it. Even MySpace would find it very hard.

But Google already had Google Gadgets and lots of other similar technology. They've also got lots of very clever programmers who know how to build things like the Maps API and hook it all together. They had all the pieces to copy Facebook inside Orkut. But nobody cares about Orkut outside Brazil.

So they've played the political game to leverage the technology and help everyone else take Facebook down a notch. Because Facebook is a pinprick in their side. They didn't get the FB advertising contract and they can't see the FB data. And after all, their mission is to index all the data and serve ads next to it.

Now I'm really in awe of the Political-PR, snow job they've done on us all, from the name, to the leaked releases, to the behind the scenes deals. Google have done an absolutely masterful job of blind siding the whole industry. It's way better than anything I've ever seen from Microsoft. They're doing exactly what MS did. Embrace and Extend, leading to Control. But they're not evil, right? And they've got us all eating out of their hand. What they want is for the whole world to use the Google standards. Atom, not RSS. AuthSub, not OpenID/oAuth. gData, not FOAF. The spec is "what Orkut does". They've managed to enlist the whole industry outside MS and Yahoo into trying to use and implement those standards. And we (the other social networks and gadget writers) will do our bit to help them because we can't afford not to.

As a geek it pisses me off because there's absolutely no accountability or transparency in how those standards are developed. It's every bit as bad as MS trying to force the Word XML standard through the standards bodies. Google is something of a black box. There's no way to influence them. Stuff appears out of the black box fully formed.

Orkut is just not very good, or very complete. And the data available to gadget writers is also not very good or very complete. But when all the SNs implement the Orkut interface as a lowest common denominator, that's all the gadget writer can depend on. Individual Social Networks that want to be Containers will have to extend the standards in non-standard ways and we'll be back where we started. To make that clearer, I expect people to add namespaces to the People data like FOAF and VCARD. Gadget writers will have to try and second guess which new namespaces might appear. And to make that even more concrete, most SNs have a Skype ID field. But Orkut and GData don't, so a Gadget that shows your Skype ID and it's presence won't know exactly how that will be presented in the data.

Then there's the name. If it had been called GoogleGadgets instead of OpenSocial people would have found it much easier to understand what it was all about. But OpenSocial was much better as a PR tool because it hides what's really going on.

But after all that I don't feel that angry. Google have given the industry a kick up the backside. And I don't think there's anything malicious about it. It's just clever people being clever about leveraging their position.

I've got to go now. Because I've got a whole new set of APIs to implement.

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[ 03-Nov-07 10:49am ] [ ]