OpenSocial – What’s missing?

google code logoIf you, like me, have opened a number of social network accounts, you have entered your personal profile multiple times at different web sites. You then have to again search and select your friends. Isn’t it annoying to go through this process over and over again?

When I heard about Google’s OpenSocial initiative, I thought that this had finally come to an end. OpenSocial will make the web a better place and social networking will be much easier than before, they say. Great! Google will enable us to register our profile and friends only once. We would then simply give Facebook our OpenSocial URL and OpenSocial password and they would use an OpenSocial API call to rerieve our personal and friends info. If we add a new friend, we would only have to do this once for all online communities that we participate in. What a wonderful virtual social world this would be…

But… this does not seem to be OpenSocial’s main purpose. Instead, Google sees it as an API for developers to build widgets that access personal data, friends, and activities from supporting online communities. Since it’s a standard, OpenSocial widgets can easily be ported between different social network sites. For example, have you ever wanted to find out which of your LinkedIn contacts attend the conferences you go to? Now its possible. LinkedIn will offer an event calendar widget using OpenSocial to get your contacts’ events and highlight all event dates that you have in common. I would rather want an Upcoming widget on LinkedIn. Why enter all my events on LinkedIn when is my place for sharing event information? But if LinkedIn opens their site for developers, OpenSocial would makes this possible, too.

OpenSocial certainly is a big step forward. However, a social networking API should also help me save time when I register my profile and friends at a new online community. This should really be the next step. The API was built to retrieve personal and friend information after all. So why not use it to do just that when you register a new account? I want to register my personal profile and my friends at a trusted site of my choice (sorry Google, it won’t be you). OpenSocial could then work like OpenID, with one server to return my info. And just like with OpenID, I could even set up a server of my own and allow Facebook to send me OpenSocial API calls for my updated profile.

I am sure that we will soon see sites that register social networking profiles and make them available to online communities using APIs like OpenSocial. Actually MySpace should share their user profiles with Facebook that way :-)

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