Is Being Open Now a Priority for Facebook?

If you’ve been reading TechMeme, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable!, or many other blogs today, you’ll know that Google, Plaxo, and Facebook have now joined DataPortability.org. While it certainly isn’t surprising to see Plaxo and Google join, some are making it seem as if Facebook’s inclusion makes this a history-changing day for the Internet. I’m not convinced.

Facebook already supports the microformat hCard on public profile pages, which as far as I can tell is the only DataPortability.org standard Facebook supports beyond private RSS feeds. Facebook has always had a history of saying it wants to support open standards, as Mark Zuckerberg implied at Web 2.0 Summit last year by calling not being open a “flaw in the system.” Zuckerberg did say that he thinks the social graph “is the user’s data,” so might this actually be a real step in the right direction? In the past, when asking Facebook about supporting open technologies, like those which are a part of the DataPortability.org stack, company officials always replied that, as Facebook was still a small company, they didn’t have the resources to do so. What changed between a few months ago and today that all of a sudden supporting these technologies is a real business priority?

The real question of the day is if Facebook will follow through on its support of the DataPortability.org mission, “To put all existing technologies and initiatives in context to create a reference design for end-to-end Data Portability. To promote that design to the developer, vendor and end-user community.” Or if this is just a marketing tactic given the issues from last week?

  • http://www.kinlane.com Kin Lane

    I to am skeptical about Facebook’s motive in doing so and how far they will go.

    They need to further open up their platform and get on board with OpenSocial to truly prove their intentions for the greater good.

    I think they are missing out on huge opportunities for further growth if they embrace data portability at the developer level.

  • http://www.crowdvine.com Tony Stubblebine

    Still a small company? If they can use that excuse then what are the rest of us to do.

  • http://mrtopf.de/blog Christian Scholz / Tao Takashi

    Maybe they are no small company now anymore ;-)

    Of course one should be sceptical but nevertheless it helps to bring the DataPortability Group some press which in general is good I think.

    I also always say in my posts that while this is a good first step we need to see what in the end really comes out of it. The same is of course true for the other two participants and the recent rumours about Google, IBM, VeriSign, flickr and Yahoo regarding OpenID.

    But again, at least the whole topic gets some traction now. I see this as a good sign.

  • http://www.davidrecordon.com David Recordon

    Hey Christian and Tao,
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say Facebook joining the DataPortability Group is a bad thing in the least! I’m just looking for some follow through, which is what I think we all should be doing, before claiming it is historical.

    I completely agree that this is a good thing in terms of helping to move the entire conversation forward.

  • http://www.floe.tv Josh Patterson

    I just hope the hype doesn’t sink the ship too soon, we were humming along on a fun little project and now I wake up to crazy headlines.

  • http://mrtopf.de/blog Christian Scholz

    Heh, I think I should get rid of “Tao Takashi” in that name field as it’s my Second Life name and somehow sneaked into the remembered data (mostly used for SL related blogs) :-)

    As for the topic: Of course you are right, claiming it historical is a bit early.

    As for the headlines, it might go the hype cycle now, which means it could be very silent around it again tomorrow. But if that idea holds any potential then it should have a comeback (headline wise).

  • http://www.floe.tv Josh Patterson

    yeah, I’m really hoping everyone just chills out for a while, till we can at least get to like draft 5 or something. We’re working hard, we have a decent plan, people just need to let it happen.

  • http://mark.atwood.name/ Mark atwood

    It’s my experience that “smaller companies” are actually *more* able to quickly implement new technologies and protocols.

    Once you get big enough, everything has to go thru a committee, with a “plan”, and a “project timeline”, and lots of ass covering and deniability. Not to mention the increased friction in getting any actual code changes checked in and deployed.

    If you wait until your “big enough” to do anything, you’ll never do anything.

  • http://whydoeseverythingsuck.com Hank Williams

    Indeed. Part of the question will be whether everyone at dataportability.org can get along. Management will be key. Big changes seem to be afoot with the new chairman coming on board there. http://whydoeseverythingsuck.com/2008/01/britney-spears-joins-dataportabiltyorg.html