Monday, 20 June 2011

Social Graph and Open APIs

Apple seems to be doing alright with it's proprietary and closed social graph; the rest of the pack continue to add value to their networks using open APIs to share social network data. So it appears there really is room for two quite different business models. However, as many social networkers have found out, there's no harm in having a foot in both camps!

Amplify’d from

Viadeo, the European counterpart of LinkedIn operating a professional social network of 35m members, is about to release its public API by the end of this month.

Most of analysts or observers just do not care, considering open APIs as hacking news. They are wrong : open APIs are questions of survival for social web services.

The war of social APIs

Facebook paved the way of releasing open APIs to provide third parties access to its sensitive data. The open APIs have now become the standard for all social web apps : LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, Orkut, Plaxo… Twitter would have been a completely different company without its open API which drove the emergence of multiple clients and the integration of tweet functions in almost every web service.

At that time, the Facebook open API was the pillar of a risky strategy.

Let’s get back to the original sin. In early 2007, Facebook adopted this anti-Apple strategy of not keeping the core of its value (people’s networks) in house. Several millions of websites now interface with Facebook to personalize and socialize their web experience. This deep ecosystem is probably what strengthens Facebook the most and what makes the company a long-term leader. To go further (and a little provocative) I would even say that Facebook has a strongest long-term position than Google, because of its social graph.

There are not so many visionaries like Zuck to bet this way. In Facebook’s situation, the obvious by-the-book mainstream strategy (by that time) would have been to keep its zillions of users captive and feed them up with ads.

If you allow your users to go away with their network, you take the huge risk of easing your competitors : someone builds a better platform than yours and siphons your users and their friends.

Another risk is to be accused of privacy breaches. Think about this : when you share your pictures, posts and personal profile with some friend on Facebook, you do not imagine that your friend can give all your data to another web service. This is the principle of social APIs : bring your friends with you anywhere.

Fortunately for Facebook, the privacy debate is close to be over now and the generation Y has no concern for this matter.


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