Something really quite strange is happening over at OpenSocial. Here's my reading of it.

It started as Google's reaction to Facebook. They already had a gadget spec aimed at iGoogle and wanted to compete with Facebook. But Orkut and iGoogle weren't getting the publicity and traction that Facebook were getting so they played the politics card and turned it into The World vs Facebook in the hope of creating a critical mass of App developers and Container developers that could compete.

The first spec was very much Google driven and based on what Orkut and iGoogle does. There were quite a few oddities about this. For instance, fairly obvious missing fields because they were also missing in Orkut. It used Google technologies like GData and AuthSub. But having roped all the non-Facebook people in then faced push back from people saying they didn't want GData and AuthSub in a global standard.

Then in the space of a week, we get OpenSocial Foundation, Yahoo supporting OpenSocial, MS announcing Live Contacts and Google announcing the Contacts API. Viewed in the context of the MS-Yahoo buyout attempt, this begins to look like poison pills and more political posturing.

Now we have the OpenSocial spec being passed over to the OpenSocial Foundation and being treated as a community developed spec in the style of Atom. It's very much based on the first Google proposals but is losing it's Google flavour in favour of a more open, vendor neutral approach. The big drivers here are Apache with the Shindig container project and MySpace as a major player and implementer.

The big question now for me is to what extent the open-speced version of OpenSocial gets rolled back into Google and implemented there. There's really quite a lot of overlap between things like the OS People Data API and Google's Contacts API. Or between OpenSocial's Gadget API and the iGoogle gadget API. And proprietary AuthSub (and BBAuth) vs oAuth.

The push to open up the spec to compete with Facebook is going to feed back into Google's own APIs and mean they lose control of them to some extent. This isn't entirely new since Google makes extensive use of Atom and are very much involved in the creation and development of that standard. They're walking a difficult line here between open-ness and closed-ness.

There's quite a few areas here that are core to data portability and DataPortability. Moving profiles and contacts lists is one of DataPortability's key use cases. Having contacts APIs multiplying is both good and bad. It's good that APIs are appearing. It's bad that there's so many of them and they're all different.

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[ 01-Apr-08 8:28am ] [ ]