Facebook has striken fear not only into the hearts of incumbent dot-com billionaires, but also into the hearts of open data freaks. It’s terrifying me – not least, because I use it.

I give the most personal, sensitive information that I have to a private US corporation. I have no way of getting the data out, even to back it up. I don’t even pay them for an expected level of service. Yet I still do it, simply because my friends are on there.

Brad Fitzpatrick, who started the blogging-site-before-the-word-blog LiveJournal, is worried about this, and has a plan to do something about it.

Currently if you’re a new site that needs the social graph (e.g. dopplr.com) to provide one fun & useful feature (e.g. where are your friends traveling and when?), then you face a much bigger problem then just implementing your main feature. You also have to have usernames, passwords (or hopefully you use OpenID instead), a way to invite friends, add/remove friends, and the list goes on …….. People are getting sick of registering and re-declaring their friends on every site.

(from Brad Fitzpatrick’s site)

Of course, you can just make a Facebook application. But, Brad Fitzpatrick again, that isn’t the wisest thing to do.

Facebook’s answer seems to be that the world should just all be Facebook apps. While Facebook is an amazing platform and has some amazing technology, there’s a lot of hesitation in the developer / “Web 2.0” community about being slaves to Facebook, dependent on their continued goodwill, availability, future owners, not changing the rules, etc. That hesitation I think is well-founded.

So instead, Brad is going to make an API, and a set of non-profit run servers. And write a bunch of open source software. And build some alliances. He needs your help, oh lovers of open platforms and controlling your own data. There’s even a Google group to join.

Oh yes, that reminds me, the twist.

Brad Fitzpatrick now works for Google. And there’s a rumour that Google are going to release a social networking API on November 5th. Expect some fireworks.

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CEO of ScraperWiki. Made several of the world's first civic websites, such as TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow.

5 thoughts on “Google vs Facebook”

  1. Thanks for the pingback Nick though in the interests of modesty I should mention that this post was authored by Francis Irving and not myself!

    Francis is definitely highlighting an important issue and one with strong connections to the open service debate we’ve been having.

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