I just read an interesting post by David Recordon suggesting that Facebook could well become the most open social network on the Web by the end of the year (or, at least one of the most open social networks online). It is a pretty intriguing thought because Facebook has been characterised by its closed approach to social networks. Information goes in and not much gets out, at least until recently when Facebook started to open up its APIs. So far it has been easy to distrust Facebook.
What would happen if Facebook truly opened up? What if we could bring our personal information in and take it right out again? Imagine we could freely export our address book or even message people using other services using Facebook? It does sound a little too good to be true but we may well see something like this emerge in the months to come. Mark Zuckerberg and Co. have certainly been pretty vocal about being open and accessible. Maybe they are being sincere about it?
I do believe that if Facebook doesn’t open up more, it will eventually be superseded by a network that is more open and that respects users and their personal information as more than just statistics for its advertising sales. Or, as Recordon puts it:
My prediction is that by the end of the year Facebook will become the most open social network on the social web. I believe that not only have they now found business value in doing so, but also truly believe that the next phase of their mission, “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” requires that they do so. This means that anyone building a business based on the notion that Facebook will remain a walled garden and won’t adapt – as was true with traditional media when blogging came about – will have their world turned upside down this year.
Disagree if you like, but my second argument is that if Facebook does not seriously embrace these ideas this year that their current position of dominance will be usurped. I’m not saying that Facebook will go away, that all of my friends will leave, that it will become irrelevant or that tens of thousands of developers will move on overnight. This year, there is an amazing opportunity to find and define a proper balance between traditional walled-garden social networks and completely decentralized efforts like the DiSo Project.