There’s a lot of hullaballoo around open standards, and portable data in general. The tech elite complain to each other about the walled-garden nature of Facebook, and laude Google’s Open Social as a step in the right direction. They say ‘the data is yours!’, that the problem is it’s locked away by evil companies, and the solution is for everyone to cooperate on open standards.
At the moment, I think this is a lot of techno-political onanism.
Why? Because the pain is not severe & widespread by a long shot. Your average Facebook user isn’t trying every social network that springs up week after week, and isn’t concerned with data portability yet. In fact, they haven’t even come close to noticing the AOL-esque nature of Facebook yet, because Facebook is still providing real value and novelty. As long as Facebook stays ahead of that curve, they may never go the way of that dead internet dynasty.
If a data portability solution is going to evolve sooner rather than later, it will come out of business sense & the pragmatic needs of the internet community.
I’d like to now draw your attention to Brightkite & Twitter. If Twitter is the “what are you doing?” social network, then Brightkite is the “where are you” equivalent. It’s still at the bleeding edge, and at the moment appeals mostly to hardcore social media junkies (like myself). That means their initial user base will be highly likely to feel the pain of migrating their friend-list over. Brightkite knows their audience, and their solution is simple & highly effective: you give them your twitter name, and they auto-discover the intersection of your Twitter friends, and Brightkite users. Awesome! (Note: they may not be the first to do this, certainly not the last either! It happens to be very effective given who they are appealing to at the moment)
That’s very elegant, and ultimately pragmatic. Twitter’s API is necessary to enable this, but that API exists not because of some “standards committee”, but because it serves their business interest.
So, hat’s off guys! You’re doing great work.