OpenSocial and the Freaky Future

Google’s video re Opensocial is a freaking 57 minutes long so I didn’t get to watch all of it (my downloads are hogging the bandwidth), but it’s purpose is fairly clear. The Social networking phenomenon needs a way to hook them all up together and Google is answering the call. The html+javascript implementation is a no brainer for most developers and by using it, not only are social networking sites accessing other, more established services and therefore saving yourself the time and effort of development and research, while at the same time actually saving bandwidth as you are pulling from their servers.

Before I watched the video the whole idea reminded me somewhat (whether related or not), about OpenID. It’s obviously far more richer and deeper than that, but for the most part the ‘sharing’ idea is the same.

So my thoughts:

The more social networking sites adapt it, the more powerful each individual existing app becomes. Flixster for example, already a great choice for reviewing and talking about movies, will become even more widely adapted and suited into each other’s networks, increasing its popularity exponentially. Anyone who comes out afterwards who wants to do the same thing will obviously have an even harder time – although that’s par for the course when you’re trying to make headway into any existing industry anyway.

What is the effect onto a particular social networking’s individuality? Say you own Friendster, whatever you do there is essentially going to allow it to be done elsewhere, say on Orkut or Imeem. What then will you have to do to keep your users on your network and not drop you altogether and switch? Further to that:

Is the end result of this going to make Google the ultimate social networking, err, site? Unless I’m mistaken using OpenSocial’s API on each other’s social networking site will allow Google to maintain its own database of each user from every site. In terms of managing to get a copy of each participating site’s membership, then Google will come out on top, right? In fact, say Friendster dissolves and is wiped out from the ‘net. Google will still have all their info cached somewhere. I’m not absolutely clear about this, but it might not even matter if you dissolve your account on that service, Google will still have it’s own set.

After watching the video and listening to each participating Social networking’s CEO make their 15 second pitch on how great their particular service is (always with users counting into the millions or billions), I came to realize social networking sites do not necessarily work globally. Some for example are ‘big’ in South America and Spanish speaking minorities while some, like Friendster, just.wont.die here in the Philippines. India has their own, China, I assume, has its own, and so on and so forth. If that’s the case then Google will become an ‘umbrella’ organization, encompassing all.

To me, that’s a little freaky. Google is already so entrenched onto our online lives that I worry about my info, cached in their servers. Sure it’s easy to say how I should just stop using it if I’m freaked, but it’s even user to, say, use Google Documents to stash my sales and inventory info and use Gmail’s address book to keep track of suppliers and buyers. Madali lang sabihin pero mahirap gawin.

So in conclusion: Yes, I’m once again impressed at Google’s forward thinking. These truly are the mavens of code, the people who truly and without question realistically understand the technology in a clear and straightforward manner and use it better than anyone else in the world. With billions is earnings to back them up and the giddy excitement of brilliant developers to make it happen, Google can and will take over anything the Internet can think of – social networking sites, search engines, blogs, news aggregators, ad serving, name it, they are on top of the game.

But no, I’m not completely sold on Opensocial, because I’m just afraid of all that info being available onto one central entity. If you think about it one of the reasons it’s a good thing that the information Google is trying to collate is disparate, separate, distinct and different is because it’s not a good idea for the responsibility for caching it to fall onto just one entity.

Yeah I’m thinking Big Brother here. I think that for the first time in History, the brainpower, the funding and the motivation are actually becoming available for a Big Brother phenomenon to be realistic, so I think we need to think about that.

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