Recent coverage granted the current state of OpenSocial hasn't uncovered very much that wasn't initially expected by skeptics and supporters, alike, through its current embryonic stages. However, it is evident that the seeds of Google's vision for a common set of APIs, which make life easier for developers by simplifying the porting of applications across social networks, is taking shape. Nonetheless, in order for OpenSocial to realize its potential, an innovation pipeline that propels consistent growth and adoption amongst developers and third-parties. In my perspective, five steps must be taken to create a context where OpenSocial can be framed within the normal course of doing business or pursuing projects.
Step 1: An active portfolio of OpenSocial applications
Seeing how th forge model has come into vogue as of late, an OpenSocial forge for applications wouldn't might not be a bad concept (no hosting, just plain-text linking). And with the API in its early stages where there is more wonder about what OpenSocial is capable of, highlighting what is being done will do nothing but expand the boundary of thought and innovation. A consolidated directory that represents what's being accomplished and who is doing it would put a face on a potentially enormous OpenSocial development community. Plus, it serves as a great way to prevent apps from floating in cyberspace, shrouded in anonymity.
Step 2: Validate viability of changes
In order for OpenSocial to emerge as a stable bridge/gateway to the heretofore closed nebulous that is the contemporary social networking platform, it must evolve rapidly without endangering the core principles of successful API's. Therefore, a premium must be put on the changes that complicate the prospect of developers writing to OpenSocial with a minimum level of effort. The best way to accomplish this is to validate the viability of proposed changes in a proactive manner.
This is especially critical in the case of OpenSocial since it is a third-party API, i.e. Google doesn't hold sway over the underlying platforms to which it is providing access. The bottom line is that the entire social networking space will undergo vast changes over both the near and long term. OpenSocial must be able to adjust to a level of change that's proportional to the overall maturity of participating platforms, all without sabotaging its original aims. It should be a buffer between the developers and the shifting landscape to which they seek to connect.
Step 3: Aggressive incubation
There are several concepts that will prove key to OpenSocial's transformation from promising early stage effort into industry mainstay. These will need to be tightly integrated into the current growth process moving forward -
- Transparent decision-making. Yes Google is driving the good ship OpenSocial, but back-room decisions will bring little more than confusion as the specification matures. A decision made out of plain sight, especially if it turns out to complicate matters for those writing to or implementing OpenSocial, will be met with sheer derision. As a result, Google must work to instill transparency into the fabric of its entire decision making process.
- Patterned collaboration. The patterns of interaction potentially made real by OpenSocial, i.e. innovative types of relationships between applications/services/platforms, will be driven in advance by collaboration. Google will find itself on the hook to play the role of facilitator. It won't be enough to meet the needs of platform partners (MySpace, LinkedIn, and Bebo) and the development community in isolation of each other, instead channels that funnel an active sense of participation and collaboration must become the norm.
- Engaging the non-selected.
Step 4: Demonstrate secure interoperability
Last December's Orkut worm is a prime example of the security risks that need to be addressed before OpenSocial can move forward. Whether through security provisions made available natively through the API or external entities. OpenSocial is supposed to grant more granular control to developers making security attacks more difficult. That remains to be seen, and in the meantime the threat of attacks making use of OpenSocial as a distribution mechanism is far more harmful. This is especially important since sustained momentum will only bring new waves of applications written to the API. I can't see Google neglecting to consider this fact, only it remains to be seen how well it will be addressed/considered.
Step 5: Monitor the processOpenSocial's trajectory will be determined by how well sustainable innovation is cultivated in relation to an underlying current of openness. Just as new forms of measurable value should emanate from OpenSocial, so should the associated metrics with which it will be gauged. Other types of open source have come to rely upon downloads and unique users although I don't think this will scale in the case of OpenSocial. Whatever the case, a realistic and representative form of measurement will have to arise in the process of quantifying progress.