OpenSocial : Developers vs Users

OpenSocial form Google is the new big thing that everybody has been talking about, especially since it is being seen as a major blow back by the Google to the Facebook. It will allow developers to write one application and have it run on multiple social network sites. In other words, a Java for web apps (looks like Java has become too unfashinable since I saw this analogy hardly anywhere else). This is great news for developers. But what about users?

Users will now have a choice of thousands of applications since developer can actually spend time in creating new applications rather than try and make one application run across multiple sites. So consider, a flixter application that I found to be very cool and added to my profile page on Orkut, spent 2-3 hours adding all the movies to it and comparing notes with friends. Then I logged in to Facebook and found the same application and now I want to match my interests with my friends here. No problem, spend 2-3 hours, add all the movies and there you go. More networks? Absolutely cool ! Same application, same interface, same fun - every time ! After all the fun of using the application is really in filling up the data and OpenSocial makes it possible to do it again and again and again.Also, on different networks, my social graph differs. So if I want to watch a movie, I just need to go check the same application everywhere and decide.

Ok, I'll stop. I think everybody got the point and that is, having the same application everywhere may be nice for developer but it is not such a big deal for user till the data also starts moving between sites. With a social network based around eah and every niche, a very urgently felt need is to consolidate the data, something which OpenSocial doesn't address yet.

At this point, I must conceed that probably a lot of users do not face this situation of having very different social graph on two different sites. As long as you assume that there is only one primary social graph for a user, OpenSocial is actually great because now every new player that comes along with a brillient idea that needs an underlying social graph to run on, can just leverage the already present social graph instead of going off and build one of his own. But what happens if the site that owns the social graph, decides to kick out this application? It can be a set back but I guess the applications will still have the data that users filled them with and hence, should be able to survive on their own. Or it may happen the other way round that a new site can bootstrap itself off some other network and then spin off.

Of course, the question is if all the data is used in a open manner all around, who gets the money that is generated off it and how is it distributed? Nobody till date has figured out a sureshot way of monetizing a social graph. Facebook is betting on ad revenue and only time will tell if that will work. So the problem is two fold. First off, the social graph owners have no idea about how to make money off what they have. In addition, if they open the data and somebody else figures out a way to make money from that, it is not clear how will they get their share. So on what conditions should they open it and how much mashing up of this data should they allow is not clear.

Well so many questions and very few answers. My feeling is that somebody will take a bold move forward and that will either make or break the whole thing. But that needs to happen soon. When Orkut came along 3-4 years ago, I remember the enthusiasm around it, spending long time on it but slowly everybody around me is kind of loosing that enthusiasm, more and more people are becoming inactive. Probably OpenSocial can bring back some of that interest with some interesting applications. I am all eyes/ears :-)

PS: Tim O'Reilly also thinks that It's the data stupid ! (I read it before writing this post though I have been thinking about these issues for sometime now ).

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Anonymous said…
Facebook and Orkut are two of the most popular social networking sites. Both of them offer very similar features and capabilities.If we compare Facebook vs. from a market share perspective then it will show you that both are considerably behind MySpace with Facebook owning just over 11.5% of the market share and Orkut having less than 1%. Facebook has become very popular in North America over the last few months whereas Orkut is extremely popular in India.

Many people prefer Facebook to orkut as Facebook is a much more professional looking whereas Orkut looks somewhat unfinished,Facebook's Mini Feed feature is useful in seeing a quick snapshot on the latest happenings within your network,the ease at which you can customize layouts within FaceBook, especially the drag and drop option,the ability to supply how you know a person (through school, other friends, work, randomly, etc). This is especially interesting when you and one your contacts know the same person, but through different ways. Creating profiles in such websites for my business hotels, budget hotels, holiday packages is happening good in Alexa traffic details.

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