As my frequent readers know, I can be harsh in my criticism of the “walled garden” model and its shining star, Facebook. But lately I’ve come to believe I may have it wrong about Facebook, and that we are about to see them open up like a flower. (I certainly seem to have it wrong about them launching an alternative to OpenID, for which I hereby formally apologize to my readers and to Mark and team.)
What are the clues?
1) Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t blog very often, but many of us were drawn to his post on the recent privacy flap. Even more interesting to me was what was there, two posts down: “About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that’s what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. ” (I joined the group, and you should, too!)
2) Jim Breyer, a venture backer of Facebook, says they will not be “out opened”: “We’re not afraid of Google/MySpace/Ning/etc, and we’re not going to be ‘out-opened’ by them.”
3) According to ZDnet, Mark said that being “closed” is a flaw in the system: “Marc Canter asked Zuckerberg about allowing users to export their Facebook data. ‘It’s a flaw in the system right now,’ Zuckerberg said.”
4) And now, in talking about their recent response to OpenSocial, Facebook’s senior platform manager, Ami Vora, said, “This is just another step toward the vision of easy, open sharing of information.”
So, I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m going to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt. They really do want their users to have ownership and control of their info, including their friends-list/address book. And they support giving users the freedom to take it with them wherever they go, just like LinkedIn and Plaxo do (as do titans like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!).
I hope my optimism is not misplaced. It would be really cool to be able to import my friends on Facebook into Plaxo and see who is using both services. (And then to be able to sync that data with Outlook at work and my Mac at home!)