Google Open Social - Don’t Believe the Hype

October 31st, 2007

At first glance, Google’s Open Social sounds like a great thing.  Open… Social… two great tastes that go great together, right?  Maybe not.  “Open Social” sounds a lot like an “Open Marriage” – on the surface some may think this sounds fun but after thinking about it for a minute you quickly realize it’s a bad idea :)


Here are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind:

  1. For anyone that has developed Java apps (especially mobile), the idea of write once run anywhere sounds great but is a pipe dream.  When you have competing “hosts” attempting to implement the open social spec to their advantage it sounds like a recipe for disaster.
  2. The first and likely best open social application will be one that takes all my contacts/friends from the also ran social networks and drops them into FB or MySpace.
    1. The effect is actually opposite of that intended (and I suspect Google hopes that they are this social network aggregator)
    2. How will LinkedIn feel when I yank all my contacts from there and drop them in FB?  Yep, kinda like the “Open Marriage” concept where you come home from work to find you best friend in your house wearing your pajamas.
  3. Wait a sec… we already have the ability to write web applications that will run across all web properties…. They’re called Widgets.
  4. An Open Social spec has to be very limited in scope in order for it to work across all the social networks.  This leads to fragmentation (see point 2) and leaves developers wanting more and only being able to build lightweight applications.
  5. Why is Google defining this – if it is truly going to be an open api shouldn’t this be a true community effort rather than a closed session of top secret meetings?
  6. Young, eager developers get all pumped about the concept and start cranking out these applications… the first place they build for is Orkut (in the Orkut sandbox) .  Orkut gets some life kicked into it.  When they attempt to move the application onto another social site all they may end up with is sand in their face.
  7. It feels like an attempt to slow down the momentum that FB has been racking up with some buzz words.

As a developer, the notion of building a deep social web app once and having it run everywhere sounds great, but so does the idea of living off the grid in some remote hilltop with my family and dogs and building cool applications for the fun of it (well sounds fun to me @ least).   Unfortunately, neither one is gonna happen any time soon.  Or perhaps, Google is truly not evil, has good intentions, and can pull it off and all the social networks will hold hands… time will tell.

Entry Filed under: Mobile