The Open Social Web


The Social Computing panel at Office 2.0 failed to deliver on the premise of exploring the impact of Social Computing on the Enterprise. I was planning on ducking out when John McCrea of Plaxo started talking about the Open Social Web. The topic was far more important than any of the other panel blather.

John said “What I’m seeing reminds me now of a very exciting time in 1994, when the web emerged. We could see how the web would change the enterprise. What we’re seeing now is the impact of the social web. It’s not just interesting and fun. It’s something fundamental and important. It needs to be as open as the web.”

Users of social networking platforms are familiar with some of the symptoms of the walled gardens we inhabit. I’ll call it the Hotel California syndrome; your data goes in, but never checks out. All those photos on Flickr? Fergitaboutit, there’s no easy batch export. Tired of filling out yet another profile? That information is rarely portable. Same with your list of friends and contacts. In all too many cases, they can’t be easily transferred to your next social network.

That’s why the current set of social networks will never realize their full potential unless they become open. After all, Reed’s Law states that the utility of social networks increases exponentially when subgroups are able to connect. Today, that kind of connectivity is poorly served by limited APIs and less than open transport of data in and out of major platforms.

So how important is the Social Open Web? Critically important if we want to maximize the utility and value of all that’s been built so far. I just hope that the economic incentives are powerful enough to erode the garden walls.


3 Responses to “The Open Social Web”

  1. therealmccrea Says:

    Mike, Thanks for the kind words. I’m heading to the Data Sharing Summit tomorrow, and in my car I have a four foot tall poster of the new Bill of Rights, so people there can put their “John Hancock” on it. And we aren’t just talking, watch over the coming weeks as Plaxo works together with other socially-enabled web apps to give users what they deserve — ownership, control, and portability of their personal info, including their local piece of the social graph, their friends list!

  2. Best Panel in a Long Time? « The Real McCrea Says:

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  3. Kevin Says:

    You hit the nail on the head with the Hotel California Syndrome – The lack of easy batch exporting of data. We’ve talked about the issue with Flickr data. But, you had me pointing my finger at the screen saying, “That’s right, Mofo!” about being tired of filling out yet another profile. In many cases these days, I don’t even bother creating accounts on sites that I like to visit…it’s just a pain to keep filling out values like “My secret question”.

    Just give me a SSO – Single Sign-On data set that can be enabled by a UID/password only. I wouldn’t mind something like that for sites I use that don’t contain vital data about me. That would cover about 90% of the profiles I’ve created.

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