It becomes exceedingly hard to not comment on the increasing din of the Open Social coalition, and Facebook’s pending delivery of their first social advertising platform tomomrrow in New York. Techcrunch, Valleywag, Venture Beat and Techmeme (and all the traditional tech media that follow them) have blurred into a single observation about Social Networking /Media / Advertising):
“Look at all these companies trying to grow their social networking assets by opening them up!”
We are led to believe that this is- without a doubt- fantastic news for the future of the free web.
I am having a harder and harder time distinguishing open from closed, and an even harder time feeling the difference between these two seeming extremes. The whole debate has become a happy web medicant, the “soma” of the blogosphere.
I don’t think that the open vs closed debate is that useful, since both are necessary for any successful Internet platform. In On Certainty, his last set of philosophical reflections, Wittgenstein responded to those who doubt everything: “If I want the door to turn, the hinges must stay put.”
In the context of social networking, one needs closed systems in order to enable openness. These systems might include:
- strong access controls
- proprietary APIs
- exclusive social graphs
- standardized interfaces
All of these are core to the Facebook experience and which have driven the incredible popularity of the service.
The flip-side is also true. We need to foster truly open access in order to drive innovation on top of these closed systems. This means:
- a programming language that any developer can use to express her ideas
- unencumbered viral distribution channels
- real-time public metrics
All of these are all hallmarks of the current Facebook app ecosystem (and the qualities that the Open Social coalition hopes to achieve).