My Big Prediction for 2008: A Mid-Year Check-In

Will 2008 be the year in which we shift from the “walled garden” model of social networking to a more open and Internet-oriented approach of the “Social Web”?

That was certainly my prediction in a December, 2007 post, entitled Why I Love Facebook and a Prediction for 2008. What I said then:

Mark Zuckerberg and team have built a really great experimental testbed that shows us what can happen when you mash up applications and the “social graph.” When you bring who-you-know to a web application, it gets turbocharged and transformed. It’s so exciting to watch Facebook’s innovation, from the News Feed, to the F8 platform play, and now to the bold (albeit controversial) Beacon initiative.

But what happens as these ideas get turned into capabilities of the web itself, thanks to a combination of community efforts and commercial efforts like Google’s OpenSocial? Here’s my prediction: in 2008, we will see the true beginnings of the “Social Web,” as open and vibrant as when the first incarnation of the Web that emerged in 1994 and 1995.

In Internet time, that prediction was ages ago. Things have been happening so rapidly that I confess I missed the literal halfway mark. But before the month of July is finished, I thought I should take stock of my prediction and see whether I am likely to be proven correct (or whether I need to begin hoping for a year-end miracle).

So, what has transpired since my prediction? Here are some of the major milestones on the road from last year to the Social Web:

- January 3: “Scoblegate” kicks off the debate over who owns your friends list
- January 8: Google, Facebook, and Plaxo joined the Data Portability Working Group
- January 17: Yahoo! gave support to OpenID, a “massive win for the project
- February 1: Google launches Brad Fitzpatrick’s Social Graph API
- March 5: Google launches Contacts Data address book API
- March 19: The Economist makes opening the Social Web a mainstream topic
- March 25: Microsoft launches the Live Contacts address book API with Facebook
- April 15: Facebook totally “gets” the Social Web; becomes an “aggregator”
- April 24: Joseph Smarr articulates a comprehensive vision for the Social Web
- May 8: MySpace announces “Data Availability,” kicking off an “open” wave”
- May 9: Facebook announces “Facebook Connect,” saying “watch this space”
- May 12: Google launches “Friend Connect,” to “socially-enable” any website
- May 15: Joseph Smarr discusses Portable Contacts initiative publicly
- June 4: Yahoo! launches their address book API
- June 11: A “Social Graph Provider” was spotted in the wild
- June 26: MySpace ships Data Availability
- July 11: Joseph, David, and I launch Episode 1 of “The Social Web TV”

From my perspective in the middle of all of this is that the pace is picking up. I think all of the major players are now racing to “out-open” each other. Why? Because we’ve all see this movie before, and we know how it ends. And nobody wants to end up as the Compuserve or Prodigy of the 21st Century.

So, I’m cautiously optimistic that my prediction for 2008 will come true. In fact, I think the next few weeks will give us all a reason to believe. Stay tuned.

Also, if I missed anything on my list that you think is an important milestone, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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One thought on “My Big Prediction for 2008: A Mid-Year Check-In

  1. [...] Historically, we’ve seen similar attempts at providing a universal login account. Microsoft even got the name right with “Passport”, but screwed up the network model. Any identity system, if it’s going to succeed on the open web, needs to be designed with user choice at its core, in order to facilitate marketplace competition. A single-origin federated identity network will always fail on the internet (as Joseph Smarr and John McCrea like to say of Facebook Connect: We’ve seen this movie before). [...]

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