Google versus Facebook versus the Free (and Open) World

Now if we can figure out where the user fits in.

Who, What, Why

After Facebook’s spring pronouncement that applications “get in but they don’t get out,” chatter about ubiquitous usernames and friends lists in a brown paper sack took on new meaning. Almost immediately, the talk on the web (including here) was OpenID this, social network portability that. The fight to pick vine ripe tomatoes from the walled garden was taking shape. But Google just showed up with a wrecking ball and a reaper. They’ve decided to chase the social graph (or social network…whatever). Maybe “chase” is too mild a term – according to some, they already have the components – all they are doing now is providing tools to release the information into the wild.

There was a lot of chatter over the weekend about this. I’ll highlight…

  • Michael Arrington says Google will “out open” Facebook with the announcement of a new set of APIs on November 5th. This information was garnered from talking to several attendees to a “secret meeting” of which a signature on a non-disclosure agreement was required for admittance.

    It doesn’t seem all that tough to do, “out open” Facebook, particularly considering every time anyone links to something in Facebook I’m forced to log in to see it. Hence, I don’t see much, and if a widget that allows me to customize the “message” of some recording artist’s album promotion is any indication of what’s behind those links, I won’t be making many attempts in the future either.

  • Open door networks, closed door meetings. NDAs? The competition was not amused.
  • Kristen Nicole of Mashable noted:

    This also brings up questions regarding Google’s plans for rolling out premium Google Apps packages through companies like Capgemini.

    I concur. And I suspect there will be a lot more NDAs being signed in the near future – the parties involved need to figure out what to tell those sought after corporate clients once they lift the lid off of consumer data.

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick steered towards gloom and doom:

    Google holds our search histories, our email, our calendars, the view of earth…

    STOP! Who the hell is “our” here…you and the mice in your pockets? I rarely search when I’m logged in, my search history is set to off, I delete all cookies when I close my browser, etc. etc. I don’t use Gmail for anything remotely important, and I don’t use Calendar. We’ll just chalk that up to foresight (and I know a lot of people that behave the same way). But, Marshall did hit this on the head…

    I think what’s needed is a federated ID system like OpenID to tie everything together, not one corporate body that can already claim near omniscience.

    Bravo. Mr. Kirkpatrick gets it very well indeed.

  • Yes, the winds of change are upon us, and even they were talking:

    But I’d be a helluva lot happier of they had started with the basic principles and mechanisms for ensuring privacy and announced those first – before releasing working code modules.

  • Conclusions? No.

    It’s obvious there’s going to be a lot more talk about this. Anyone drawing conclusions now is drawing them prematurely. I suggest waiting (and listening) before you decide to export all your Gmail.


    You delete all cookies when done browsing? After every session? Now that just seems crazy! So you loging anew to every webservice you use every time you go online? That seems like a loss to me.

    Michael Gracie says:


    That is correct – clearing is a readily accessible privacy setting (as I’m sure you know) and I think the “loss” issue is subject to debate (and is subjective in its own right as well).

    I only have to click the log in button when I arrive someplace, with a password manager aiding the process. But, I don’t save usernames or passwords in my browser (or anywhere on my machine) for sites that have my financial information (nor do I use the same username/password combo at them all, but I manage). In total, I’d say it is hardly a big loss of time, and certainly provides me with some level of comfort as well. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen a study compares the loss of time from such a process to the potential loss of time dealing with direct marketing solicitations, spam deletion, and/or running around changing checking accounts and credit cards after an identity theft incident.

    But the bigger issue here, IMHO, is stratification of the userbase (i.e. the difference between how you and I use the internet). I test a new site or service every now and then, but I have a core group of sites I use (and most of them are either proprietary stuff or services that allow me to do things like pay bills or buy a new gizmo). You, however, likely visit an enormous number of sites, and over and over again. That is part of your job – visit, test, provide useful opinions, get feedback, network those opinions and feedback…repeat. You do a great job of it, and a lot of people benefit from that.

    How you use the internet is not how I use the internet (and it is not how my core group of friends and colleagues use the internet either). Hence, I and they don’t need the convenience of saving cookies for every site we visit, because we are vetting our visits based on YOUR opinions.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    PS: I believe OpenID adoption would create a much more comfortable arena for investigating new websites. My “non-hardcore” friends agree.

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