On October 17th, I penned these words regarding the future of the internet:

That is, a smart application creator will develop applications that collect and share data across platforms (MySpace to Facebook).  This could result in an integration of integration that is currently fragmented.

Today, the announcement came that Google may have done exactly that with its announcement of “Open Social.”  Marc Andreessen has the best explanation of the new tool:

In a nutshell, Open Social is an open web API that can be supported by two kinds of developers:

  • “Containers” — social networking systems like Ning, Orkut, LinkedIn, Hi5, and Friendster, and…
  • “Apps” — applications that want to be embedded within containers — for example, the kinds of applications built by iLike, Flixster, Rockyou, and Slide.

This is the exact same concept as the Facebook platform, with two huge differences:

  • With the Facebook platform, only Facebook itself can be a “container” — “apps” can only run within Facebook itself. In contrast, with Open Social, any social network can be an Open Social container and allow Open Social apps to run within it.
  • With the Facebook platform, app developers build to Facebook-proprietary languages and APIs such as FBML (Facebook Markup Language) and FQL (Facebook Query Language) — those languages and APIs don’t work anywhere other than Facebook — and then the apps can only run within Facebook. In contrast, with Open Social, app developers can build to standard HTML and Javascript, and their apps can then run in any Open Social container.

Got a MySpace profile and a Flixster account?  If both participate in Open Social, you can integrate your Flixster into MySpace and vice versa.  And your Plaxo account.  And LinkedIn.  And any social networking platform that decides to dive in.

The outstanding question, of course, is what Facebook’s response to this will be.  But the announcement itself is a significant step forward for the web, as it allows for more effective integration of the services and platforms that people want to use.  No more checking five social networks for updates from friends, and no more seeing them in third party applications.
My other big curiosity is what this means for Christians who care about disseminating good ideas online.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

One Comment

  1. […] NEW MEDIA:  Google announces “Open Social“.  Matt Anderson provides some commentary on this new internet tool. […]


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