Should Microsoft join or fight the OpenSocial?

Should Microsoft join or fight the OpenSocial?

Summary: What would happen if Microsoft -- whose own dev.live.com story is slowly evolving and so far has yet to take the development world by storm -- decided to surprise everyone and back OpenSocial and allowed OpenSocial developers' apps to run seamlessly inside the Windows Live Spaces "container"?

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In all the conversation this week about Google's OpenSocial launch, Microsoft's own social network -- Windows Live Spaces -- is absent from just about every blog post, article and discussion.

Should Microsoft join or fight the OpenSocial?Instead, most pundits are positing that the new playing field looks like this: Google, MySpace, Bebo, Ning, LinkedIn and just about everybody else vs. Facebook (and Microsoft, but only by virtue of its ad deal with and stake in Facebook). OpenSocial is now "a platform" which developers can "learn once and write anywhere." Facebook is a closed platform, for now at least, unless the company joins OpenSocial or makes public its own programming interfaces. And Microsoft is ... yet again, absent from this Web platform debate -- other than being one of the "bad guys" that the other saintly "open platform" backers want to foil.

One Softie, Windows Live team member Dare Obasanjo, described the OpenSocial is pure and simple lock-in and makes the Google of today look like the Microsoft of old. Charles Fitzgerald, General Manager of Platform Strategies, says the least-common-denominator platform approach, draped in open-source clothing, won't be a positive for anyone but the smaller social-networking players.

I don't agree with either of these guys. This is old-school thinking.

What would happen, instead, if Microsoft -- whose own dev.live.com story is slowly evolving and so far has yet to take the development world by storm -- decided to back OpenSocial and allowed OpenSocial developers' apps to run seamlessly inside the Windows Live Spaces "container"? Rather than building up Windows Live services as yet another walled-garden platform, akin to the Windows platform, why not take a chance and be a real part of the social?

To many Softies this may sound like treason. How will profits be made if Microsoft doesn't lock in its platform loyalists? How can Microsoft combat Google if it is backing Google's play?

If Microsoft did take the surprising step of joining OpenSocial, the move wouldn't be completely unprecedented. Over the course of a few years, Microsoft has decided to experiment with releasing some of its code under "treasonous" open-source licenses...so who knows? Maybe Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie will give the Live team the green light to try thinking different.

What do you think: Should Microsoft try to beat the OpenSocial squad? Or surprise everyone and join them?

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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21 comments
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  • they will never join ...

    Microsoft doesn't like the word "Open"*.
    Google knew what they were doing ;)
    n0neXn0ne
    • What about

      Open XML? :)
      NME
      • Open XML

        I will believe in Open XML when MS gets it passed by ISO and publishes it in a useable form free from IP constraints so that others can use it in any program they write without fees to MS and free be from the fear that it will be changed in MS products so that their programs no longer work with MS documents.
        misceng
  • When Pigs Fly

    The probability of Microsoft adopting OpenSocial is about 0.0 for any Windows Live property, in my opinion.

    As to "Facebook is a closed platform, for now at least, unless the company joins OpenSocial or makes public its own programming interfaces.", the FaceBook API for applications/widgets _is_ public. There are thousands of third-party apps on FaceBook.

    --rj
    Roger_Jennings
  • RE: Should Microsoft join or fight the OpenSocial?

    A reading of Microsoft blogs and Mary Jo's own postings tells me that Microsoft was extremely likely to take a similar action next year. Trouble is, if Microsoft isn't first on this, they are last and their strategy flails. As in the MS Internet plans flails around for months because of this one lost opportunity. By the way, MSFT stock dropped today...
    waltal
  • Which Microsoft?

    Microsoft (the advertising company) should probably fight. Letting FaceBook go to OpenSocial would cede too much to Google.

    Microsoft (the software company), well they should probably join. Add a free toolkit for to .Net/Visual Studio. Play nice, be social.

    I read somewhere that Google is the central authentication agent for this, but I cant find the page where I read that. That will be a huge barrier to Microsoft going in.

    I'm not sure I like the idea of Google knowing everything I am doing on any of these sites. If this is true, its not good.
    TheTruthisOutThere@...
  • Where's the FUD?

    It may take some technical analysis to see how the Windows Live properties could accept OpenSocial-compliant goodies. I haven't done that. I am sure there will be technical objections but the question is better whether they can simply accept it anyhow and provide alternatives or even appropriate extensions to OpenSocial to those who want to exploit custom capabilities.

    That raises a social problem for Microsoft, but they could consider it.

    I'm surprised that no one has started the FUDfest about how Microsoft would attempt the embrace, extend, extinguish game by signing up for OpenSocial.

    That's the problem that Microsoft has to get its head around.

    Personally, I think it would be very healthy for Microsoft to line up with Open Social. I would not be surprised to see it happen. Then we get to deal with differences among ECMAScript implementations and the fuss going on in that realm.
    orcmid
  • Better question: Why can Google do this, and not Microsoft??

    Does it have anything to do with trust?
    DonnieBoy
    • Probably, yes.

      And don't take this in anyway as a defence of Microsoft, but trust in the 5th largest corporation whose business model is to collect information about your online activity and sell targeted advertising space based on this, is misplaced.
      TheTruthisOutThere@...
      • So agree!

        I don't like Google as much, because the thought of Google doing that was just too much.

        Seriously, using my info. for the sake of ads is not cool. Especially when I never look at them. (IE7 + adBlocker)
        quikboy
  • Live Spaces API over OpenSocial API

    Microsoft could create their own API and than port it on OpenSocial platform. So apps written for that API would work everywhere.
    NME
  • well, since the investment in facebook

    since the investment in facebook is (probably way off in my opinion, but) only 1.6%, Facebook is obviously not required to do anything MS says. So it could jump on the google ship and adopt open social with no problem. so, in a way, an interest of MS' would adopt Open Social, but since MS' own interest, spaces, is not even ... does anyone use it? since it's of limited use to anyone, MS probably won't throw any dev time at it, especially not for integrating with anything that is remotely related to Google. Google has earned the wrath of Ballmer, MS will never cooperate.

    I would be hesitant, though, if I owned a huge social networking site. "Open Social", but not a standard anywhere, isn't really that open. I'd rather have it in ISO or IETF or W3C before I started implementing it in my site. Email (SMTP etc) is probably a good example of how open it should be before I'd throw it on my developers. Especially not before v1.0. That's suicide. Because what if someone else comes along with their "OpenerSocialer", and then I want to hook into that. What if OpenSocial dies? If they both die? I could have spent more money making cooler stuff for my social networking site. Like more werewolf apps... or a virtual kegger app.
    Voodoo187
  • False dichotomy

    [i]What do you think: Should Microsoft try to beat the OpenSocial squad? Or surprise everyone and join them?[/i]

    Or, keeping with tradition, join them in order to take over and eventually lock them out?

    It really shouldn't be too hard to come up with tempting API extensions that are supported by MS dev tools and that, to begin with, translate down to wireline traffic that is compatible with the others. Once enough developers are locked into that environment, MS can simply discontinue support for the translation layer.

    Voila! Only one left standing.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Well you're wrong.

      This is the web we're talking about.

      Lock them out? This is the web - anything can happen. A new site can pop open the next day. So Microsoft or anyone can't lock you to their own site.

      OpenSocial is about supporting many sites. Microsoft does not just walk in, and murder the other sites.

      It's funny how people like to throw Microsoft in a ruthless position in any tech scenario. People have it so wrong.
      quikboy
      • Counterexamples? Even one?

        >It's funny how people like to throw Microsoft in a ruthless
        >position in any tech scenario. People have it so wrong.
        Eh? Counterexamples please?
        ...
        ...
        ...
        thought not.
        bmerc
  • I don't see why

    [i]What would happen, instead, if Microsoft ??? whose own dev.live.com story is slowly evolving and so far has yet to take the development world by storm ??? decided to back OpenSocial and allowed OpenSocial developers??? apps to run seamlessly inside the Windows Live Spaces ???container???? Rather than building up Windows Live services as yet another walled-garden platform, akin to the Windows platform, why not take a chance and be a real part of the social?/i]

    OpenSocial will be similar to Java. Everyone will constrain himself to live under the dictates of a particular company, and the evolution of the technology will wind up being bogged down by squabbles between participating companies, and the philosophical views of the lead company. In the meantime MS' Live services (and other competing services as well) will rapidly evolve like .Net, and leave these guys in the dust.

    People keep asking why MS doesn't support open software and open standards more. I believe the answer is that MS likes to be in charge of its own destiny, and believes in openness only in cases where it makes sense. I personally do not understand the rationale behind open sourcing code under licenses like the GPL, which devalue the code. Red Hat uses this model and it makes only a small fraction of the income MS makes from Windows Server software. Further, [url=http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2207368,00.asp]indications are that Linux growth has slowed, while Windows Server growth continues, as the OS continues to gain market share[/url]. I don't think the real danger is that MS' Live services will lose out to OpenSocial. I believe the real danger is that MS will be successful again, and its competitors will all line up gain at regulators' doors.
    P. Douglas
  • I don't see why - 2nd try

    [i]What would happen, instead, if Microsoft ? whose own dev.live.com story is slowly evolving and so far has yet to take the development world by storm ? decided to back OpenSocial and allowed OpenSocial developers? apps to run seamlessly inside the Windows Live Spaces ?container?? Rather than building up Windows Live services as yet another walled-garden platform, akin to the Windows platform, why not take a chance and be a real part of the social?[i]

    OpenSocial will be similar to Java. Everyone will constrain himself to live under the dictates of a particular company, and the evolution of the technology will wind up being bogged down by squabbles between participating companies, and the philosophical views of the lead company. In the meantime MS' Live services (and other competing services as well) will rapidly evolve like .Net, and leave these guys in the dust.

    People keep asking why MS doesn't support open software and open standards more. I believe the answer is that MS likes to be in charge of its own destiny, and believes in openness only in cases where it makes sense. I personally do not understand the rationale behind open sourcing code under licenses like the GPL, which devalue the code. Red Hat uses this model and it makes only a small fraction of the income MS makes from Windows Server software. Further, [url=http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2207368,00.asp]indications are that Linux growth has slowed, while Windows Server growth continues, as the OS continues to gain market share[/url]. I don't think the real danger is that MS' Live services will lose out to OpenSocial. I believe the real danger is that MS will be successful again, and its competitors will all line up gain at regulators' doors.
    P. Douglas
  • I don't see why - 3rd try

    [i]What would happen, instead, if Microsoft ? whose own dev.live.com story is slowly evolving and so far has yet to take the development world by storm ? decided to back OpenSocial and allowed OpenSocial developers? apps to run seamlessly inside the Windows Live Spaces ?container?? Rather than building up Windows Live services as yet another walled-garden platform, akin to the Windows platform, why not take a chance and be a real part of the social?[/i]

    OpenSocial will be similar to Java. Everyone will constrain himself to live under the dictates of a particular company, and the evolution of the technology will wind up being bogged down by squabbles between participating companies, and the philosophical views of the lead company. In the meantime MS' Live services (and other competing services as well) will rapidly evolve like .Net, and leave these guys in the dust.

    People keep asking why MS doesn't support open software and open standards more. I believe the answer is that MS likes to be in charge of its own destiny, and believes in openness only in cases where it makes sense. I personally do not understand the rationale behind open sourcing code under licenses like the GPL, which devalue the code. Red Hat uses this model and it makes only a small fraction of the income MS makes from Windows Server software. Further, [url=http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2207368,00.asp]indications are that Linux growth has slowed, while Windows Server growth continues, as the OS continues to gain market share[/url]. I don't think the real danger is that MS' Live services will lose out to OpenSocial. I believe the real danger is that MS will be successful again, and its competitors will all line up gain at regulators' doors.
    P. Douglas
  • don't care

    "Microsoft???s own social network ??? Windows Live Spaces ??? is absent from just about every blog post, article and discussion."

    Thats because no-one cares.

    MS should stick to MS Office & patching windows. All the rest is second or third rate.
    JoeJoe2000
    • Neither

      It doesn't matter, life will go on with or without social sites and it doesn't matter who conforms to the mob-mentality or who remains individualist. It just doesn't matter.

      Besides, someday advertisers may stop paying through the nose, and many sites will struggle just to stay alive.
      lmenningen