Posts Tagged 'opensocial'

Reality bites

Today a couple of posts wondered out loud if social networking has peaked

In particular, Malik thinks that the market has transitioned onto niche social networks, in his words

The way I see it, the market has shifted its focus onto niche social networks, such as those dedicated to sports, music, automobiles and pets. You know, sites like Dogster! They have focused, engaged communities, which means they can attract a higher amount of advertising dollars.

In the very first comment on that post,

Niraj said:

While it would be easier to monetize, I can’t see the niche site idea working very well because users would have to sign up at several sites to cover their different interests. Facebook and Myspace’s broader appeal give them a much larger base, and it seems like a tradeoff: easier to monetize versus easier to gain users.

Like Malik, I am seeing a shift to niche social sites because it is getting incredibly harder and harder for horizontal play sites to gain mass traction, I am also speaking from personal experience with my video aggregation site, JiggyMe.

But Niraj does have a point that it is a pain for users to repeatedly sign up and re-enter the same profile information and recreate the social graph over and over. And this is what data portability advocates have always said, a user shouldn’t have to do that time and again. The real value-add for social sites should be the services they provide, not the user and social graph data. I am seeing this happening already now with projects like DiSo, Google Friend Connect, Open Social Foundation, Google Social Graph API, and stealth startup chi.mp. These startups and projects aim to make user and social graph data more open and accessible so social sites can instead focus on providing value-add services instead of keeping users data walled in. Mind you, this is just the start and there is plenty of work to be done to make the user experience seamless, but it is a good start.

Is OpenSocial Shindig a trojan horse?

No, not that kind of trojan horse but you will see what I mean later on. The more I learn about OpenSocial, the more I think it is making a strategic play as the de facto social networking standard not just for gadget apps container but also how to link containers (as Chris Saad puts it) as it pertains to data portability.

Here’s why I think so. OpenSocial has a reference implementation Shindig (written in Java) that any social site can drop into its infrastructure, hook up some connections between Shindig and their backend and presto, the site now supports OpenSocial apps (at least in theory). Quoting from this blog

As Google product manager Dan Peterson describes in Let’s get this shindig started: “Shindig is a new project in the Apache Software Foundation’s incubator (as per the formal proposal) that aims to provide an open source reference implementation of the entire OpenSocial stack — Shindig’s goal is to allow new sites to start hosting social apps in well under an hour’s worth of work.” This source “is based upon code that has been powering Google Gadgets and iGoogle for the past few years and is meant to bootstrap the Shindig project.”

Did you catch that part about “in well under an hour’s worth of work”? That’s very appealing to social sites because it is of minimal impact to their existing code base. At the minimum, it gives them great incentive to try it out and see how well it works. And once it is in, it usually stays. That means OpenSocial can easily proliferate across social sites making it a practiced standard in the wild.

OpenSocial is known for making gadget apps portable but they are going beyond that already. There is currently a proposal to make OpenSocial APIs RESTful. IMO, this is the “linking containers” bit. RESTful APIs is an open standard and can be called by anyone through HTTP essentially opening up the social site users data through OpenSocial. And the more social sites with OpenSocial support, the more it becomes a standard in the wild.

Maybe I am off the mark here, if you think so, I would like to hear from you (leave a comment) why.

Facebook and Microsoft to join OpenSocial

I heard from a reliable source (sorry, can’t reveal) today that Facebook and Microsoft will both be making announcements sometimes this week that they are joining the OpenSocial Foundation along with Google, Yahoo, and MySpace. Both companies plan to commit development resources along with some amount of cash infusion. This is huge given how both Microsoft and Facebook have been so walled off when it comes to their users data. I see this as a huge step towards general data portability effort.