Open Social: the next standard for gadgets on blogs?

I haven’t talk about much recently, but I could not pass to silence Google’s Open Social API announcement. So I’ll begin with an overview of my thoughts on Open Social followed by my thoughts on how it could become the standard for gadgets on blogs.

Quick overview

As a response to Facebook’s success with their platform, I find it’s a bit weak.

There’s too much we don’t know yet. What we know is that we get a framework to manage:

  • People Data API: Basic profile information (your profile and your friends’)
  • Activities Data API: the equivalent of Facebook’s feed, except here you get a feed of your friends’ activities on different social networks
  • Persistence Data API: a method to store data on Google’s server. In theory, you can build an application that requires no hosting.
  • Container API: used to host Open Social applications. Nothing published yet. Only the currently announced and privileged partners can host Open Social applications for the moment.

As a developer, there are some things to like about Open Social. First, you get another way to virally distribute applications. This is great for marketers too who want to virally promote their Web sites (if they support Open Social). Second, it’s all Javascript and since you can store data on Google’s server, you can in theory build applications that require no hosting. However, if you want to protect your IP you will probably want some server hosting and Web services for your proprietary black box as many announced applications already do. With the Javascript approach, you have to be quite careful as this article shows: “First OpenSocial Application Hacked Within 45 Minutes“.

As for what we don’t know yet, the list goes on and on:

  • If I am a friend with someone, will I show up on his friends list any participating social network?
  • Are there any privacy settings? What are they? Is there any granular control? Will my email and phone number (2 fields in the People Data) be distributed to all my friends?
  • The container API is not yet published. However, it should soon be.
  • Will I be able to block activities from certain Web sites?
  • And so on…

With all these unanswered questions (and more), I think Google’s announcement was a bit precipitated. As Scoble says in “Back to the walled garden“, there’s not much incentive yet for users to switch from Facebook. Personally, with all the unanswered questions, I prefer to keep my friends in a walled garden.

Also, I don’t see much “open” in Open Social. It is entirely controlled by Google. It is managed though your Google login. They host the main data.

A standard for gadgets on blogs?

To be fair on the “open” side, I think we will see a lot of interest in the open source community. For example, I see a lot of opportunity for free and open gadgets. Which brings me to what I really wanted to talk about. If there was to be a single standard for gadgets on blogs, I think it would be great. In that aspect, the open source community will have a big role to play to create the different gadgets people want on their blogs.

One of the problem on blogs is the commenting systems. This would be a great gadget opportunity.

There’s the question of spam and/or approval.  There’s the question of a bunch of different systems requiring us to log in. There’s already a lot of players trying to solve these problems and more, but I think Open Social might become the solution because of the single Google sign-in(sigh!).

There’s already a social aspect to blogging, but it is quite informal. If I were to use something like Open Social to approve “friend” then future comments of these friends would be automatically approved. If I un-friend someone (a sneaky spammer, for example), his past comments would automatically disappear and future comments would be blocked. Here, I use “friends” as a loose definition, but the social networking aspect could be used to keep bloggers in contact with commenters and vice-versa. As you can understand with that usage, my definition of social network and my definition of friends is probably pretty much different than what we are used (and what Google expects). For this usage, I won’t need a walled garden (assuming my email, phone number and other sensitive information would be kept private).

In this way, Open Social could be used to build a global network of bloggers and commenters.

That’s not all. Other than the basic features, different commenting systems could be built with additional features but still keep using the same network. For example, some blogs could extend the commenting system to add features for Web sites or product recommendations, local presence, reminders, online status and whatever your imagination can think of. Best of all, whatever the commenting features, you would still have a single sign-in.

So, what are you waiting? Start to code the next universal commenting system! Do it for free.