Facebook Opens Up, But You Still Have To Add Friends Manually

Matthew Magain

Over a year ago two competing photo sharing services stumbled upon some thorny issues surrounding the openness of their data: Flickr initially denied Zooomr access to its API on the grounds that it was too similar a competitor, but eventually agreed to open up only if the stream was to be a two-way channel.

The social networking space is presently going through a similar stage of evolution and thrashing out similar issues — first Google announced OpenSocial, an open standard to which developers of applications for social networks could adhere to so that they ran on any network, and Facebook have recently made moves to shrug off their perception of being a walled garden by with a similar (not unexpected) announcement. Developers are faced with a choice: one option that exists but only has two players, and another option with lots of partners but has yet to be released.

And this is all fine. I hate repeating code and wasted effort, so the fact that Bebo users can now play Scrabulous with their friends without the Scrabulous team having to write a Bebo version of their Facebook app is all well and good.

But what about those users and their connections?

All of this openness and talk of API parity and open standards does nothing for the fact that the biggest complaint by anyone who uses more than one social network is that they have to re-enter their data every freaking time they sign up. Sure there are hack ways to get most of your data out, but the resulting data doesn’t exist in any kind of standard format that you can then reuse with a different network, and the contact information you can retrieve is restricted anyway.

Besides, what format would it take? XFN? Ha! Brian Suda wrote recently about how Microformats could be the answer to this problem, but not enough social networks support them yet, so this is not yet practical.

Am I naive to think that, if we fast forward a few years to when everybody is using OpenID and OAuth, we’ll return once again to the concept that there is no social network other than the Web?

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  • Tijs

    The web as the social network, or the inside out social network, is exactly what we are trying to achieve at the DiSo project. Please check out our main online presence here:

    http://www.diso-project.org/

    and perhaps this blog post by Chris Messina, on of the founders of the project, explaining the project in a nutshell:

    http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/12/10/the-inside-out-social-network/

  • headieherbs

    I think calling the web “the only social network” is being way to general. Sure everyone signs up at myspace and facebook because all their friends are there, but after that most people join new social networks that are niched to their interests.

    For example: http://www.writeinyourvote.com/ is a “social-politicing” network for US Candidates and Voters, a place where these users can have poltical discussion in a relevant environment that is all encompassing of US politics, and nothing else.

  • headieherbs

    Tijis, I like what you said above… I’ll be contacting you shortly to see how Write In Your Vote can get involved in your project.

  • http://www.twice21.com ParkinT

    Looks like some “socializing” going on right here in the comments!!

  • Anonymous

    Or spam…

  • SEO Canada

    Funny to see a Sitepoint blog criticize a featured SP article as basically being written in an ivory tower.

  • Anonymous

    Social networking is sooooo 2007. This time next year we’ll be asking “who cares?”

    These social masquerading sites “steal” personal information from the unsuspecting with the hope of selling the data on to advertisers for vast chunks of cash.

    At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.