Open Social Is Nonsense

I’ve been thinking more and more about OpenSocial recently. Today, I spoke with Hooman Radfar, CEO of Clearsping after they announced their decision to support OpenSocial. I asked him why his company wasn’t going to be rendered useless by OpenSocial. Why would I say that his company’s services could be rendered useless? Ultimately, Google’s goal is obvious. Google’s OpenSocial is a standard that makes it easier in the future to host all distributed web applications on one platform. The only problem is that Google hasn’t yet announced the platform because none of the OpenSocial partners would agree to it.

As of now, OpenSocial is 3 XML schemas and a few unstable javascript libraries. Those few things could have been thrown together by a few developers in a couple weeks (including snack breaks, rolling in late to work, etc). I don’t mean to discount the value of this movement but let’s be honest, OpenSocial really isn’t that deep a concept: one standard for interpreting the social graph within any social network. Wouldn’t Google want access to the data of all of these social applications? Definitely.

The only problem is that Google can’t convince any of the social networks to accept a single distributed web application platform that is managed by Google. Instead, there are rumblings within the industry of a new platform being developed with the backing of other major players, some of which have agreed to accept the OpenSocial standard. In the end what needs to be developed is two things: the ability to transport my identity across social networks and one platform for developers to distribute their applications across all social networks with the click of a button.

While Google’s current actions may be altruistic, I would argue that the reasoning behind Google’s actions are not. For now, Google has provided social networks with a standard to use when developing their platforms. Now they need to go and build those platforms. That’s like me coming over to your house with some chocolate and asking you to make me a soufflé. There’s still a lot of work to be done and expecting Google to convince the other social networks to actually open-up is ludicrous. That’s what we were hoping for from OpenSocial but it’s exactly what OpenSocial is not.