While at Bebo's launch event yesterday in San Francisco, I had a chance to catch up with David Glazer, the director of engineering at Google who is overseeing the evolution of the OpenSocial framework that the company announced on November 1, 2007. You can see the interview in the attached video (above).
Bebo claims to be the third largest social network in the world behind MySpace and Facebook and also claims to be the most popular social network in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. Glazer's attendance to the Bebo event was particularly interesting given that one of Bebo's key messages from yesterday's launch was how applications that are written to run on FaceBook will run without any recoding on Bebo. The FaceBook developer platform is by no means a standard in terms of programmable social networks. But Bebo's choice to be API-compatible with FaceBook in many ways proves why a standard for interoperability between social networks (interoperability of the sort that's the supposed province of the OpenSocial framework) can be important.
For example, given the sort of interoperability that's being demonstrated between the FaceBook and Bebo contexts of Web-based games from Webs.com and Bunchball (described in yesterday's blog about the Bebo launch), the benefits are pretty clear. If you have an account on multiple social networks, you can have your constituents in social network #1 (perhaps one you use as a consumer) and a separate set of constituents in social network #2 (one that you use for business). To be able to be on the first network and connect to you constituents on the second network without leaving the context of the first can, at the bare minimum, offer a much better user experience than the one we have today where you have to jump from one network to the next just to connect. This sort of interoperability is one of the goals of OpenSocial and not surprisingly, Bebo CEO Michael Birch told us yesterday that Bebo would be supporting OpenSocial next year.
I asked David Glazer to riff on the idea that the interoperability between Bebo and FaceBook could be a proofpoint for why a standard like OpenSocial makes sense. In the course of getting the answer, I learned that just a couple of nights ago, the first open source implementation of the OpenSocial framework was published on the Apache Web site under the name "Shindig." On Wednesday, under the headling Let's get this Shindig started, Google OpenSocial API product manager Dan Petersen posted a blog regarding the code's availability. Glazer also told me that the framework which can be found on Google's site at code.google.com had advanced from version 0.5 to 0.6 (as it heads towards 1.0 in 2008). Since announcing OpenSocial in November, Google has been digesting feedback from developers and has synthesized that feedback into several change to the framework.
Glazer and I also talked about the business model once something like OpenSocial takes off. For example, will s/he who houses the data or s/he who has the biggest containers of data win? It seems like they might. But Glazer points out that we could have said the same thing about HTML and things worked out there. Clearly 2008 is going to be year that we'll get to see what sort of impact OpenSocial will have on the Web.