Saturday, February 7, 2009

Facebook’s Move to “Openness” Setting de facto Standard?

Yesterday, Facebook took a further step in opening its network by introducing enhancements and new features to its developer APIs. Facebook’s new APIs make it easier for applications to update user statuses, links, and upload videos from outside of Facebook. This effort will likely generate a flurry of activity in the developer community as new applications are created and existing ones enhanced to take advantage of these new capabilities.

[Add to this the earlier announcement of Facebook’s support of OpenID and things are definitely starting to get interesting]

But beyond the power and convenience of integration and data portability from external sources, the real story lies just below the surface. Facebook is striving to become the ultimate repository for all of your social-media information and this is another step along that path. Their platform is becoming a global data-store and their APIs are empowering developers and users with standardized methods of interaction.

On the one hand there is very little about this that is open. Facebook controls the data, its access, and its availability. Facebook defines the integration, they determine the protocols, and the APIs, and even who can and cannot use any of this. This “openness” is all under the oversight, control, direction, and whim of the giant.

Yet, when you think about it, Facebook has made huge strides in extending its world beyond the looming walls of their garden. And, while I don’t think this was their original intent, they have nevertheless listened to their user base and observed the opportunity the market presents.

Some may call it baby steps, others an attempt at world domination. But the winner today is the user (and yes, it’s pretty good for Facebook too!); and the benefits continue to evolve. Along the way, these initiatives will provide new and innovative methods for interaction with users and data that may lead to de facto standards for data portability. Will that actually happen? That depends on Facebook’s “real” position on openness, the user’s tolerance and acceptance of that position, and the response from the other great giant seeking dominance in the global data-store market – Google.

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