Now that Mark Cuban is free from his "Dancing with the Stars" commitment, he is weighing in on the current Facebook-OpenSocial debate. Several months ago he privately suggested that Facebook license its APIs to Yahoo:
...I thought that if you put the 2 together, enabling Yahoo to access the Facebook database of users within the current API constraints, Yahoo search and ad serving would improve considerably. Expand the Facebook database with an opt in option to add further personal data that could be used FROM WITHIN THE YAHOO WEBSITE, the results for Yahoo could be extraordinary. A Yahoo searchbox within Facebook , or a search from a Yahoo site that recognizes you are the owner of a Facebook profile and customizes the results according to information culled from your profile would be incredibly powerful
I don't know if anything can or would come of my little referral. Maybe now with MicroSoft buying into Facebook, they can get a free crack at the Facebook API and Facebook profile owners who also use MicroSoft Live can get better search and ad results. Who knows.
What I do know is this. As long as Facebook keeps expanding the power of my profile, there is no reason for me or anyone else to create another profile anywhere else, including any of the Google OpenSocial alliance members. If all the value of my Facebook profile remains stopped at the edge of the facebook domain, I might have to give Google OpenSocial a try.
It was a great idea and still is, but less unique or compelling now that OpenSocial has been hatched. Certainly, Yahoo (and Facebook's intimate friend Microsoft) would find it intriguing given its lack of a strong social networking service and Facebook envy. Licensing the Facebook APIs to Yahoo would provide access to Facebook member data outside of the Facebook platform, allowing the Yahoo search engine to deliver more high value search results and ads. Conversely, Facebook could integrate Yahoo (more likely Microsoft) search into its platform.
However, this model wouldn't allow applications to support multiple hosts without rewrites. And it maintains the old world business model of proprietary platforms, which has worked so far in terms of market dominance and capitalization (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, salesforce.com, etc).
OpenSocial is more of an early effort to build a social layer into the fabric of the Web, rather than just annexing Facebook data to another service.
Google has a philosophy of "giving back" to the open source community, since the company benefited greatly from open source since its inception. More realistically, Google is in a unique position of strength and has a lot of confidence in its ability to compete in a more open marketplace, as it is showing with OpenSocial and the forthcoming mobile phone software.
While I was at the Campfire 1 event at Google, where OpenSocial was formally rolled out, I talked to co-founder and President of Technology Sergey Brin about openness. Of course, Google isn't giving away its core search or ad engine secrets, but the company has open sourced a million lines of code across more than 100 projects. "Lot of stuff makes sense to open source," Brin said. "There aren't many people, with thousands of computers, who could make use our code. We want to pick pieces to open source that are of use to a greater number of people."
The theory goes that the more people online and enabled by more open software, the more opportunity for Google, and others, to continue to grow and innovate at a rapid rate.
Cuban is right that as long as Facebook pleases its membership with what it has to offer, and can find ways to extend user profiles beyond the walled garden, the core user base will remain faithful. And if Facebook continues its fantastic growth, developers won't abandon ship.
OpenSocial is more about applications and widgets tapping into profiles, social graphs and activity streams in a standard way than who offers the service most relevant and useful to a particular individual or group--in other words, where your friends, business associate, family and interest groups hang out. There is no one-size-fits-all social network.
OpenSocial gives Facebook competitors and developers a tool that clearly gives them a boost as the social Web takes shape. Given about a billion people are online and Facebook has colonized 50 million of them, there is plenty of room for others to play. Unless Facebook's social APIs provide some unique competitive advantage over OpenSocial APIs, or that Facebook and Microsoft or Yahoo teaming up will pay huge dividends, openness is the path of least resistance...and enlightenment.