Country & Western Gentleman

Michelle Jones. UK

The kind of openness promised by OpenSocial isn’t particularly valuable to users (oh that billion people.) Tim O’Reilly nails it with his economic analysis:

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.

It’s just an open widget API. Great. So as an app vendor my widget can kind of be portable. Or at least the back end code can kind of be reusable. But users still have no ability to combine the services of multiple vendors. This whole web platform wars thing has got to go.

At a deeper level, think about the value, or lack of value that the platforms actually provide. At the OpenSocial level the platforms are just providing widget containers. Portlets anyone? The Web experience is retrograde enough without taking a giant step backward and spending your whole day inside Facebook.

Rather than trying to suck Google/Yahoo!/Facebook/Microsoft’s sticky-locked-in version of the web through a lame portal straw, the real hope lies in innovative expansion of the browser-to-user link (as exemplified by Mozilla Prism which e.g. lets Web apps work much more like desktop ones) and in secure mashup technologies (like JSONrequest which turns the current platform-centric model on its head.)

update: Prism prototype now available for Mac and Linux.