Much has been written lately about open standards and APIs for social networks, allowing users to sprinkled and manage their social graphs (circle of friends and business associates) across disparate services--a kind of decentralized and more accessible, rather than siloed, social graph. Brad Fitzpatrick laid out the problem with the social graph and offered some suggestions for moving forward.
Following is Fitzpatrick's statement of the problem with social networks today:
People are getting sick of registering and re-declaring their friends on every site., but also: Developing "Social Applications" is too much work.
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. A centralized "owner" of the social graph is bad for the Internet. I'm not saying anybody should ban Facebook, though! Far from it. It's a great product, and I love it, but the graph needs to exist outside of Facebook. MySpace also has a lot of good data, but not all of it. Likewise LiveJournal, Digg, Twitter, Zooomr, Pownce, Friendster, Plaxo, the list goes on. More important is that any one of these sites shouldn't own it; nobody/everybody should. It should just exist.
Fitzpatrick, who founded the company that created LiveJournal and sold it to Six Apart, lays down the gauntlet for Facebook's co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who's company has been gaining momentum with its applications development platform, and the other fast growing social networks.
We await their responses. According to Fitzpatrick, "early talks with Facebook about participating in this project have been incredibly promising."
He also diplomatically explains how the larger sites may not see allowing the raw data of the social graph out of their intimate and sole grasp as in their best interest:
Uncooperative sites, on the other hand, are the ones that are already huge and either see value in their ownership of the graph or are just large enough to be apathetic on this topic. Please note that "uncooperative" doesn't mean "actively fighting it", but rather that they might just not prioritize supporting this. In any case, it must (and will) work with both types of sites over time.
Dave Winer has a half hour podcast, where he explains why you'll wait forever for Zuckerberg to liberate the social graph, and also why the "last" social network will not be as Fitzpatrick envisions.
Thanks to Beckett and Roth