Facebook ignores OpenSocial, embraces Windows Live Contacts API

Facebook is still the odd company out with the OpenSocial APIs, but is on board with the Windows Live Contacts API, which allows members to import Windows Live contacts to their respective sites.

Dan Farber
3 min read

Now that Yahoo has finally and officially signed on to the OpenSocial API bandwagon (see Techmeme), the company that Microsoft might buy has joined with MySpace.com and Google to create the OpenSocial Foundation. Facebook is still missing in action, considering whether joining the OpenSocial Foundation is in the best interests of its membership--or its own platform.

OpenSocial provides a useful piece of functionality, solving a developer problem by allowing applications developed with the APIs to run on different services without modification--write once, play many. A photo-sharing application could tap into the social graphs of Orkut, Bebo, MySpace, Ning, or other services without any code changes.

Google is making Facebook's choice regarding OpenSocial more difficult by granting the OpenSocial code to the nonprofit foundation, which will be "independent of any undue influence by any one party," according to the opensocial.org Web site. In fact, Google is giving up its trademark to "OpenSocial" and its ownership in the Web site in the name of community-driven specifications, according to Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google.

In other words, it's more difficult now to categorize OpenSocial as a Google-inspired approach created in part to break the growing dominance of the Facebook platform.

On another front in the search for data portability, Facebook has signed up to partner with Microsoft on address book portability. Along with LinkedIn, Tagged, Hi5, and Bebo, Facebook is endorsing the Windows Live Contacts API, which allows contact info portability.

For example, Facebook or Bebo users can find friends on Windows Live and vice versa. The API also includes provisions for privacy management. The relationship data is not automatically stored, and must be reestablished with permission from the contact on each interaction.

However, adoption of the Windows Live Contacts API won't let you exchange contact info between Facebook and Bebo or Bebo and Hi5. It's only two-way with Windows Live as a node.

"At this point our agreements are between Microsoft and the individual social networks. We have nothing else to announce at this time," John Richards, director of the Windows Live Platform, said in an email response to my query about going further with the API. At least it's a start at breaking down data portability barriers.

I asked Marc Canter, who has been an evangelist for data portability, about Microsoft's API. Here's his e-mail response:

They're sure saying the right things

and they appear to be putting resources behind it - and putting (in) writing what needs to be said. And exerting leadership I may add. You don't see Google saying those sorts of thing. Apparently Yahoo made some open announcements today - too. Haven't seen them yet.

The MS machine is gearing up to "crush" the competition - only problem is that this time - the competition is Google. And we're (the users) all pawns in this game. Who can be more open is the sort of battle we want fought!

So despite MS's best efforts - the tactics of old will not work.

And we (the people) shouldn't care - as long as they continue to open up - that's a good thing.

I predicted that this would happen. Old agenda gets corrupted with the mesh.

There is only one way to go - once Pandora's box is open = and that's more open.

The only variables that remain are:

- how can small guys benefit from an open environment

- how do the big guys protect their family jewels while starting to monetize openness