I had been planning and working on this panel for six months, ever since Loic and Cathy Brooks asked me to do it – during the summer. The timing was perfect because MySpace had just announced their MySpace ID platform at the show, while Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect both shipped last week.
And on top of all that, Microsoft shipped a major upgrade to the Windows live suite of apps and services – and SixApart had shipped a product called TypePad Connect – so every single panel member had made a major announcement and was shipping their “open technologies” – within the past few weeks.
What transpired was a fairly comprehensive panel discussion on the state of open platforms in the web today (even though we would have liked to have had more time to go into the positioning of OpenID as either a technology or a solution) and other ideas on how these platforms can connect together. However we simply didn’t have enough time.
So here’s the panel – I think it went really well:
During the panel we triangulated between the interests of the major platform vendors and their business models and agenda – with that of “what’s best for end-users.” We gave the audience an overview of the various approaches to open social networking – Facebook (highly integrated experience, 98% open), OpenSocial (a set of APIs for providing Facebook ‘like’ apps) and Live Mesh (which is a synchronization, cloud computing/local server mesh approach.)
I tried to give each approach it’s own day in court and as far as I’m concerned, I think all three of these approaches can play together and work with each other – to create a viable, happy ‘open mesh’ of inter-conncted networks. I know that’s an idealistic dream, but all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.
We even got heckled from the audience by Michael Arrington, who claimed that being an open platform isn’t always the best user experience and that maybe Facebook was gonna win cause it WAS closed.
“We have a new president and he’s shown us that through working together with people, we can achieve good. The old school Republican attitude was to call out Facebook for what they’re doing WRONG, but our new attitude is to work together with folks to move forward. We owe allot to Facebook, as we do to Doug Engelbardt, and we all make our contributions to what ‘open’ is.”
The panel started off by identifying “Open is the new Black” as the latest trend permeating the major platforms today. We went over the ‘Open Stack” and what each of the panelist’s companies define as “open”.
Dave Morin of Facebook informed us that Facebook had 130M users worldwide, 650,000 platform developers (from 180 countries) and 14.5B page views – a month. But when I asked him how Facebook connects into the open stack and which of the layers of the stack Facebook would connect to – he didn’t have an answer. [NOTE: Privately we know that Dave Morin supports us, but he's not the boss at Facebook.]
What I WAS able to get out of Dave Morin was that we’ll be able to get access to the Facebook feed – whch we don’t today. Then David Recordon eloquently pointed out that building on top of open technologies (like our Open Stack) is better for developers and end-users. David is on the Board of the OpenID Foundation and there is movement to morph the OpenID brand into a full solution.
Max Engel then explained what MySpace announced (MySpaceID) and how MySpace users are used to have their ID as a URL (myspace.com/marc) and that fits right into the OpenID approach.
Dave Glazer then explained the difference between OpenID and OpenSocial (Glazer is on the board of the OpenSocial foundation.) OpenSocial brings Facebook app functionality – to “the rest of us”.
We then had a high level Microsoft executive named Jeff Hansen who explained how Live Mesh is a key component in their future and how it is a gateway technology to create and maintain symmetrical synchronization of one’s data and social graph – across a wide range of devices and your desktop. By implementing two-way APIs, Microsoft will enable any of us to access any Microsoft’s customer’s profile data (or any other implementation of these ‘live mesh’ protocols) and then put it right back from whence it came.
Then panel covers all the important issues of our industry today.
Now that Facebook and MySpace have truly opened up and will allow their users to move their profile data, social graph and content to other systems (under certain access controls) its time to talk about these behemoths connecting together via the OpenID Attribute Exchange.
First off I want to thank Dick for his enlightened approach and understanding of the politics and nuances surrounding evolving open standards and I’m excited as hell by something Allen Hurff (SVP of MySpace) said to me at the recent Facebook f8 conference:
“We looked at Attribute Exchange and we like it, but we need to do some extensions to it to match our solution.”
So this blog post is a plea to Allen, Dave Morin (Facebook), Kevin Marks (Google), Eran Hammer-Lahav (Yahoo), Angus Logan (Microsoft), Joseph Smarr (Plaxo) and of course David “get it done” Recordon (SixApart) to work together and extend the Attribute Exchange – so that we (the industry) can ALSO mesh into this compatibility ‘river’ of data and deliver to ALL our users and customers the ability to freely and easily flow their data – wherever the hell they want.
And let’s not forget Chris Messina and Will Norris (Vidoop and DiSO), Stephen Paul Weber, Leah Culver, Ben Laurie, Brad Nueberg, Simon Phipps, Scott Kveton, Tantek Celik and Brian Oberkirch – and all the other independents who are working on open social networking – in their various guises and scenarios. Or Dave Winer.
I know I’ve been ranting about this for a while (my wife actually complained to me that she’s sick and tired of hearing the same dam thing over and over again) but I hope you all agree that this idea’s time has come.
The key ascept to these extensions (from my POV) is matching, mapping and normalizing the various techniques of access controls. This will facilitate the smooth movement of user’s data between systems – with concise privacy and access controls over that data.
If one sets up their controls – in say Facebook (and utilizes their recently announced ‘dynamic privacy‘ system) then it HAS to match up to whatever MySpace and Google are doing. And vice versa.
And Microsoft is gonna have to play along with us – as well. We need to put the user’s best interests first and let that dictate what happens. But it seems to me that Facebook’s DRM bits for people sort of sets a standard level of behavior here – so the trick will be how others can get compatible with Facebook (utilizng other techniques.)
The goal is that (let’s say by Thanksgiving) we all have a normalized set of access controls with which we can interop between. It’s not just about enabling Facebooks apps to work outside of Facebook. Its about moving MySpace data into Facebook, then moving it to Orkut or Microsoft’s world – and back to Yahoo or Plaxo.
I’ll leave the technical details to you folks as to what exactly needs to get extended and mapped. But certainly upcoming efforts on ‘portable contacts‘ will supply us with a standardized schema and set of APIs to interconnect the PUT and GET of profile info.
Now we need to just all agree upon some common notions of media, messages, events and places, and of course the 800 lb. gorilla of them all – social graph. Both FOAF and XFN provide ways of doing that.
So let’s have at it.
BTW here are Dave Morin Allen Hurff and Kevin Marks (and me) at f8:
Final note – Allen says to me: “we’re trying to decide between FOAF and XFN” and I immediately say BOTH dude BOTH! We need them BOTH!