SNAPI Will Defeat OpenSocial in 2008

Last night I decided to take a look at the Bebo platform documentation. Not surprisingly, much of the code resembles the Facebook API. Much of this may be due to Bebo licensing Facebook’s platform. While I haven’t spoken with Bebo’s team to confirm my suspicions, whether or not Bebo has licensed Facebook’s platform is not what’s important here. What is important is that FBML and FQL may actually have transformed to become the defacto standard for social network programming.

On Facebook, FBML tags all start with the letters “FB” which represents Facebook. On Bebo, these tags start with the two letters “SN”. I would assume this stands for “Social Network.” The implications of this are pretty significant. While I previously announced that Facebook would try to compete with OpenSocial, I didn’t realize the overall implications. Ultimately OpenSocial is an extremely abstract concept that doesn’t inherit a lot of the social features of Facebook applications.

FBML and the Facebook API as well as the new SNML (Social Network Markup Language) and SNQL (Social Network Query Language) provide much more tangible features that are easy for any developer to understand. Additionally the new Social Network API as well as Facebook’s API provide immediate access to all of a social network’s features. OpenSocial doesn’t. Want to upload photos to a user’s social network album? The Social Network API takes care of that not OpenSocial. Want to publish an activity to the user’s newsfeed? The Social Network API will handle that as well. Not OpenSocial.

Ultimately, OpenSocial is a step above the classic FOAF (Friend-of-a-Friend) standard. It provides developers with a javascript API that enables querying to retrieve social data. Unfortunately most of that data isn’t specified in the OpenSocial specifications.  It is up to each social network to determine how they’d like to implement OpenSocial. The Social Network Query Language takes everything to a whole new level by forcing a social network to adopt standard features including a news feed, profile wall and a user photo album.

When FBML first launched, many people dismissed it saying that there is no way that Facebook will get the world to become blue and white (Facebook’s colors if you weren’t aware). The funny thing is that I don’t think they have to anymore. Facebook may succeed at getting other social networks to adopt their platform model. It’s the best standard so far. Then again it’s the only standard that has launched so far.

Go browse through the SNML documentation, the Social Network API documentation and the SNQL documentation. You will soon realize that this is practically identical to Facebook’s platform. In 2008 most social networks will become social platforms and most of them will duplicate Facebook’s platform. LinkedIn is one of the few social networks that will significantly restrict applications that can launch on their platform.

Regardless of restrictions, the combination of SNML, SNQL and the general API are the perfect solution for any social network. I will group this combination under one term: SNAPI. This stands for “Social Network API.” After taking a look at Bebo’s platform I finally realized that Google definitely should be scared of Facebook. Facebook is going to be the primary competitior to OpenSocial but rather than using the often critized FBML, they will use SNML and SNAPI to take OpenSocial head on.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that in 2008 SNAPI will defeat OpenSocial.