Tim O’Reilly has a great post on Google’s OpenSocial. At the end of the day, I couldn’t agree more with Tim’s thoughts that OpenSocial is great for developers but a who cares for users.
If all OpenSocial does is allow developers to port their applications more easily from one social network to another, that’s a big win for the developer, as they get to shop their application to users of every participating social network. But it provides little incremental value to the user, the real target. We don’t want to have the same application on multiple social networks. We want applications that can use data from multiple social networks.
Would OpenSocial let developers build a personal CRM system, a console where I could manage my social network, exporting friends lists to various social networks? No. Would OpenSocial let developers build a social search application like the one that Mark Cuban was looking for? No.
I agree Tim. OpenSocial is like Java for social networking apps-the promise of write once, run anywhere. It goes back to my point I made in an earlier blog post – I am completely inundated now from requests from Facebook, LinkedIn, and now PlaxoPulse. I am having a hard time keeping track of all of my contacts, messages, and the like. It would be great if I could have a service that sat on top of these apps and allowed me to manage all of my relationships from one place. Sure, some contacts may only be a Linked in contact, some may be a Facebook and LinkedIn, etc. Check here if you want your music to be shared on this network and not the other one, etc. You get the idea. It is not hard to view this data in one place by sucking in RSS feeds from the various services but viewing it in one place vs. managing all of my relationships from one place are two different value propositions. Jeff Nolan has a recent post about this as well. Of course the challenge is that the value of these services is their proprietary networks which creates lock-in for the user. Once users can export and manage that data and without visiting these various platforms then the service begins to lose its lock-in. We see this problem over and over again in many web services – the constant battle between closed and open standards and networks. If you are the big guy, why bother. If you are the small guy, it makes sense to join up with many of the other smaller players. Anyway, enough digression here – I would love to hear your thoughts about how you are spending your time managing your various relationships across different networks and what you would like to see.