Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are well-known and used daily. We network with family, friends and even strangers through these mediums. The motivation behind the usage varies greatly from individual to individual. I really do not want to get into the debate about motivation, or even the lack of it. At least not in this post. As we use these sites we start building up some very valuable resources that social networks harness to learn more about you. These resources are photos that we post, message that we send, and the contacts that we have (aka our friends).
Open Social represents a platform to share those social objects amongst different networks. That means more than simply our status updates appearing on multiple social networks. This already exists. For example my twitter update appears on my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles already today. Open Social will provide a way to exchange your activity stream with another service, or third-party service. It also allow for exchange of information about your friends. For the user there are multiple value adds one of which is not to have the need to invite my friends into a different network but rather have them imported and accessible for free.
This exchange of information which is facilitated through the “Opensocial” platform, will enrich the social experience on the web. The user will be more easily able to communicate with their friends on multiple networks and have functionality that make the experience about the individual. For example, I started using a new service called Fridge. It is a relatively unknown service that allows a user to have private conversations with selected friends. If that service could import Facebook friends or Google contacts then the user could easily have a people picker in Fridge and start conversing on his private wall really quickly. Since this integration is built into other social networks notifications could be sent to network specific mail as well as email. The experience becomes immediately more richer. Also the new service earns a trust factor that would not be there otherwise.
Why would Facebook or Google do this?
Facebook and Google and other social giants like Twitter will also benefit from the openness. If you are having your private conversation on a different social networks it will not matter to Facebook or Google as long as they have access to it. The networks can still abide by the privacy agreements and learn about you and your likes and preferences through the life cycle of your social objects. This is what they are after anyways. Using this information they understand more about their user and provide a more personalized and richer experience on their own sites. Yes this will also include advertising but the advertising will be more pervasive and less intrusive. I strongly believe that advertising that is directly aimed at the user and improves the users quality of life will be welcomed with open arms.
I have on purpose stayed away from mentioning the geeky side of things. If you are really interested in learning more about the Open Social API’s and protocols which are cutting edge and enabling the next generation of social tools, here is my recommended list: