I actually intended to ease this blog slowly back into action over the weekend. But with the announcement of OpenSocial, that kind of threw off my plans. This is too big an event for me to pass up on. For those of you who don’t see why I think this is so huge, I’ll explain.
As I explained earlier today, OpenSocial is a new platform, headed by Google. It will allow developers to create web applications using standard web languages. And those applications can make use of information from social networks (such as your friends and updates, for example). Those applications will also be able to run on a lot of different networks. MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn, Friendster, Orkut (obviously, being a Google product), Imeem, Hi5, Ning and a number of others have signed up. With a combined user base of over 200 million users. That’s amazing reach and impact for developers.
Those of you who aren’t developers might be wondering, “So what?” Well, this is a huge development, in my opinion, that brings lots of value to everyone, including the average user, in a number of ways.
Marc Andreessen summed up the general idea of what this means really well on his blog:
“Freedom wins, and openness wins. You can hold it back for some period of time, but in the long run, freedom always wins because freedom and openness let people all over the world be fully creative and innovative in every way they want. And the creativity and innovation that freedom and openness enable will always swamp anyone’s attempt to wall off a proprietary world with tight controls and sharp limitations.”
But more than that ideal, it does have a lot of useful, practical possibilities.
Firstly, it means more choice. Of which social network platform to use, and what applications are available. With OpenSocial, you can bet more developers will be creating applications, and you’ll be able to access this larger number of applications on more sites.
Secondly, and more importantly, this could have huge implications on the future of web technology. The basic demos that have already been shown (notably developed within a few hours) include things like the Flixster application, which allows you to see your friends’ ratings of movies. You can see a quick video and some screenshots on how it can work here.
But I think that could be just the beginning. I have no idea how this will develop or what it will develop into. Could it be the first step in truly integrating the different networks – to have true portability and not have to register with your information over and over again on the various sites? I don’t know, but I hope so. What it does mean a much more integrated user experience on the social networking sites. It means the web will become even more social, where the web applications and services you use can and will revolve around the connections.
And these aren’t just fun games to waste your time. There’s value for EVERYONE. Professional networks like LinkedIn are involved as well, and their Calendar application shows the possibilities quite well. They developed a calendar application which basically shows events in your industry (based on your LinkedIn profile). And it highlights events which people in your network are attending. On the events page, you can see more about the people in your network who are attending, and you can also see a list of people you might want to meet (based on your profile information, etc).
For more demos, or information, a quick Google search will give a lot of results. But you can start with these 4 articles, here, here, here and here. And if you have an hour or so to spare, this video from Google’s CampFire One is worth watching.
The possibilities are endless, if you ask me. And this could very well redefine the web. Web 2.0 – the Social Web – could truly, finally, be here.
Where do you think this could lead? What possibilities can you imagine coming out from this?