Google is Spearheading the Launch of an Open Social Web API

Following this blog post yesterday about my speculation that Google is building a mobile development platform, the whole blogosphere announced this morning that Google is leading an initiative called OpenSocial that will see the launch an open social web API. This new API will allow social networks and application developers to work together using a set of standardized instructions. Partners currently include Google’s Orkut, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster,, Oracle, iLike, Flixster, RockYou, and Slide.

Opening the Social Graph Barcamp

Flickr photo by magerleagues.

As Marc Andreessen said this morning on his blog,

This is the exact same concept as the Facebook platform, with two huge differences:

  • With the Facebook platform, only Facebook itself can be a “container” — “apps” can only run within Facebook itself. In contrast, with Open Social, any social network can be an Open Social container and allow Open Social apps to run within it.
  • With the Facebook platform, app developers build to Facebook-proprietary languages and APIs such as FBML (Facebook Markup Language) and FQL (Facebook Query Language) — those languages and APIs don’t work anywhere other than Facebook — and then the apps can only run within Facebook. In contrast, with Open Social, app developers can build to standard HTML and Javascript, and their apps can then run in any Open Social container.

TechCrunch explains in more details:

OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google won’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.

What it means: this is a major announcement, maybe the biggest announcement of the year. Standardizing the social web will go a long way towards the explosion of social as a key element of the Web operating system and one more step towards the web becoming a gigantic word of mouth machine. You’ll want to embrace these standards.

Update: According to AlleyInsider, MySpace will announce today that they join the OpenSocial “alliance”

Update2: Techcrunch reports that blog software publisher SixApart is also joining. Bebo also.


Residential Search is About to be Disrupted

On Monday, Yahoo Search launched improvements to their search engine including something they call the “search assist“. Like some other bloggers, I wasn’t too impressed until one of my friends showed me how you could use it in the context of people search.

If you do a search for my name on Yahoo and trigger the search assist, you can now see concepts associated with my name. The keywords Linkedin, Facebook, Robert Scoble, local search, social networks, blog archive, online media and product management appear in the search assist screen. As my public face on the web is mostly professional, all these keywords are bang on and offer a good representation of who I am on the web:

Linkedin: I’m a heavy Linkedin user and the site has a great SEO strategy.

Facebook: I’ve blogged about Facebook a lot during the summer and some of my ideas had big impacts in the blogosphere.

Local search and social networks: my job and what I blog about.

Online media and product management: my job.

Robert Scoble: I discovered what Robert was doing with Facebook and blogged about it, creating an important Web meme.

Yahoo Search Assist

The people-search site Spock uses tags to convey the same kind of related information. Unfortunately, on a search for my name, the info is much more limited as it comes only from my Linkedin profile. It misses a large portion of my other online activities, most notably the blogging.


What it means: structured business data has always been the bread and butter of the directory industry but most publishers have put their residential search function on the side, not really caring about it. Be careful! Residential or people search is a great traffic driver into your ecosystem of web sites and many people are after that traffic. By introducing structured people search, Yahoo, Spock and others are making it much more relevant. Residential search is about to be disrupted.

The Definition of “Friends”

This morning, InsideFacebook reports that “Facebook has added two new undocumented functions to its API Test Console this evening that appear to reference an as-yet-unreleased feature called “Friend Lists.”” They continue: “The addition of Friend Lists means one can now much more flexibly and powerfully manage privacy settings per List. Work friends see one portion of your profile, personal friends see another, best friends see yet another.”

In addition, a few minutes ago, my friend (and Praized Media partner) Sylvain sends me this relationships chart, part of an effort to standardize the definition of “friend”. He found the reference to it on a Google group that discusses Social Network Portability (see my post about the web becoming a giant word of mouth machine to understand the impact of social network portability).

The relationships chart tries to capture all types of relationships that can exist between two persons. Examples include lifePartnerOf, neighborOf, worksWith and wouldLikeToKnow.

What it means: 6 weeks ago, I had forecasted that Facebook would modify and add layers to their definition of “friend”. It seems like this is coming sooner than later. This could represent a serious threat to Linkedin. Moreover, many smart people on the world wide web’s edge are thinking about social network interoperability. That’s why I strongly believe “social” will become part of the fabric of the web. Better follow these conversations now if you want to hook yourself early on with these new standards.

I am Media: From Theory to Practice in 6 Days

Remember last Saturday morning when I shouted “I am media”? Want to know what happened since then? I accidentally went from theory to practice… 🙂

Robert Scoble picked up my post and confirmed my theory. My blog received 10 times more traffic than usual for two days and I’ve had many interesting conversations during the weekend. I also added many friends to Facebook, Pownce and Linkedin.

And just when I thought that wave had subsided, the magic of Facebook connected Colin Carmichael and I on Tuesday morning and put us on a mission to save Business 2.0 magazine. Alerted by my status update feed, Colin created a Facebook group dedicated to this cause and we started leveraging social media to create some buzz around the group. You can read the chronology of these events here.

The group now has about 1075 members. We’ve been adding 1 member every five minutes since the launch and all of the major industry influencers have joined the group. Since the launch, we’ve received coverage from the following major media/blogs:

Valleywag, “Facebook to the rescue!

Advertising Age, “Can Fans Save Business 2.0?

San Francisco Chronicle, “Save Business 2.0

GigaOm, “Saving Business 2.0, Facebook Style

Fast Company, “Can A Social Network Save Business 2.0?

Washington Post, “Trying to Save A Magazine Through Facebook

San Jose Mercury News, “Facebook group hopes to save Business 2.0

Business 2.0, “Can Facebook Save Business 2.0?”

I even got mentioned by name in the San Jose Mercury News article! Many Business 2.0 readers have had the chance to express their love for the magazine, many subscriptions have been sold and some people even registered on Facebook just to be part of the group! I think we’ve already made a difference in the lives of the Business 2.0 team. I think there’s a lot of things we can learn from this experience especially about the various social media vehicles working together but I’m still digesting as this is an ongoing process. It’s been a good ride so far. What a week.

One thing’s for sure: I am media!

Chronology of a Successful Facebook Group: The “Save Business 2.0″ Example

Efforts to save Business 2.0 magazine via a Facebook group are going very well. We currently have 500 members (including a large number of tech influencers) after only two days and we’re getting traction in multiple media (ValleyWag, Advertising Age, Fast Company and a variety of blogs).

As the “Official ‘Save Business 2.0’ blogger”, here’s my theory of what I think happened to get to this result as quickly.

1) I was the original sneezer after seeing the New York Times article talking about the potential shutdown of the magazine. I wrote a Facebook status update that said “Sebastien is sad to think Business 2.0 magazine might fold in September”. As I’m using Facebook for networking and I’ve been adding many friends since Robert Scoble talked about me last Saturday, I reach out to 250+ “friends” with my update.

2) One of my friends, Colin Carmichael, picks up the news via my status update, decides to create the group and invites me.


3) I blog about the group in the Praized blog.

Praized blog - Business 2.0

4) My blog post gets picked up by Techmeme and is attached to the original New York Times article. It’s the first broadcast about the creation of the Facebook group.


5) Someone from Business 2.0 (or someone close to the team) finds my blog post via Techmeme and sees that Colin has created a group.

6) A good portion of the Business 2.0 staff, freelancers and former employees joins the group. All these people are important influencers. As quoted by Advertising Age, “Editor in Chief Josh Quittner said he signed up for the group as a purely reflexive emotional gesture. “It choked me up — an old cynic like me,” he said.”

7) Close friends and business acquaintances (other tech journalists & bloggers) are invited to joined the group via the Facebook “Join this group” function.

Facebook Join this group

8) As the Silicon Valley tech crowd is a tightly-knit group, they quickly reach out to their peers who then join the group.

9) In the meantime, I try to fan the flames using Digg and Linkedin. Digg does not work but Linkedin contributes to the conversation.

Digg Facebook Business 2.0

12) In the meantime, Colin talks with many media about the group and its purpose.

10) Valleywag picks up the news, sends it to another level.

11) Group members continue to invite other influencers, Advertising Age picks up the news, reaching a more mainstream marketing population.

12) Snowball effect is in action as we get more and more media/blog coverage, more people joining and more people inviting other people. 48 people added themselves to the group while I was writing this post.

13) What’s next? Business 2.0 is saved? Let’s continue the movement and save the magazine!

Now, this is just my theory. I think Colin and I played an important role by starting all of this but I think Techmeme played a critical relay role. And I think the use of the viral functionalities of Facebook by the influencers who joined the group in the early hours played a critical role as well. In addition, what I find fascinating is that we’ve had many people tell us that a) they created their Facebook account to be able to join the group and b) they ended up subscribing to the magazine after seeing the news and the efforts to save it. If that’s not the power of social media…

Can Social Media Save Business 2.0 Magazine?

What started yesterday as one of my Facebook status updates is slowly becoming a grass-root effort to save Business 2.0 magazine. The Facebook group created yesterday morning for that occasion now has 139 members (and growing every minute). The list of people supporting the magazine is starting to read like a who’s who of tech entrepreneurs, bloggers and journalists and includes amongst others Reid Hoffman, Michael Arrington, Om Malik, Craig Newmark, and Josh Quittner.

In addition to the Facebook group, I’ve posted the news on Digg (very limited results) and I’ve also asked a question on LinkedIn (some interesting comments there). We’re also now crossing over into blogging media with a Valleywag article covering our efforts to save the magazine. Hopefully, we can get more blogging media coverage today and maybe (cross your fingers) get offline media coverage as well!

With that many “sneezers” on board, I have very high hopes we can tell Time Inc. that the magazine is a must-read amongst the digerati and save it.

BTW, if you like Business 2.0 magazine, make sure you add your name to the Facebook group! If you want to add me to your Facebook network, don’t hesitate to invite me also.

End of day update: the group is up to 329 members and Advertising Age has covered the news! Keep going!

Robert Scoble is Media

I’ve been thinking about Robert Scoble’s post on Facebook since I blogged about it yesterday. In it, he invites people to become “friend” with him on Facebook (and he does it again in his last post yesterday night). Intuitively, I knew he was unto something and I asked the Praized blog readers to do the same thing (you can do it by clicking here).

Now, I’ve been “friends” with Robert ever since I met him at Google Zeitgeist 2005. We were sitting at the same dinner table and had the occasion to exchange a few words (he’s a great guy BTW!). For those who don’t know him, Robert was one of Microsoft’s technical evangelists. He was part of the Channel 9 MSDN Video team, walking around the Microsoft campus and shooting very informal new product videos. He became extremely popular by having a more balanced view about his employer (more balanced than traditional PR people), sometimes congratulating and sometimes criticizing Microsoft. More info can be found on his Wikipedia profile

Since meeting Robert, he’s been part of my LinkedIn network, and recently I added him in my Pownce network. I obviously added Robert to my Facebook network yesterday afternoon after reading his post (and he accepted it quickly).

Now, if you look in his Pownce public feed, you’ll see that Robert has been micro-blogging about stuff he’s doing. He currently has 1253 “friends”, all early adopters as Pownce is still in beta. In Facebook, he now has 2702 “friends”. Yesterday night, I got a message in my Facebook news feed section. Robert had uploaded a video and
I got an alert about it because he’s in my friends list.

It made me wonder: why would Robert Scoble accept “friends” invitation from people he does not know? Why do you want to be connected to people you don’t know and alert them to stuff you’re doing? And then it hit me! Robert Scoble is media. He’s building his own broadcast network. He understands that media is completely fragmented and, by participating in all these new social communication vehicles (blogging, Twitter, Pownce, Facebook), he’s aggregating readers and viewers,
thereby increasing his penetration and his worth as a media. I’m convinced Robert reaches close to 100% of all early adopters in Silicon Valley (and a good chunk in North America). He now has tremendous influence on “influencers”.

Now, I finally understood why I invited people yesterday to connect to me in Facebook. I am media as well. By writing the Praized blog every day since October 2006, I have become media. And if you are media, you want to build up your “circulation” to increase your influence and by extension, your value. But be aware: you have to accept the reciprocal conversations though. Robert Scoble receives updates from 1253 Pownce friends and 2702 Facebook friends. The noise level is very high. This conversation is not unidirectional.

I have seen the future of media and it’s Robert Scoble.

Silicon Valley is Abuzz about Facebook

Silicon Valley is currently crazy about Facebook. Robert Scoble has captured some of the discussions:

John Battelle asks a compelling question: why Facebook and why now?

Scott Rosenberg of Slate follows up with another point: that Facebook’s friends definitions are all messed up.
Over on TechMeme everyone is talking about how Facebook’s advertising isn’t working.

Robert also offers some explanations about why this is happening:

First, why does Facebook’s advertising suck?

Because it isn’t tied to people or applications. Everything I do in Facebook is about interacting with people. For instance, at the top of my Facebook inbox right now is Ryan Coomer. The advertising next to him says “Try Forex Trading Today.” There is absolutely NO connection between who Ryan is and the advertising that’s put next to him.(…) Translation: Facebook needs an advertising platform and it needs one in the worst way. I’m not going to even look at the ads until the ads are tied to the people on Facebook. Facebook knows what we’re into, put ads for those things onto our profiles and messages.

Second, how could the friends definitions and ties be improved?

1000 ways. I’ll be honest, I don’t use them at all. I just add you as a friend and don’t put any details in there about how I know you. For one, adding that kind of detail is a competitive advantage for me and for PodTech and not something I’m really anxious for other people to know.(…)

Finally, why Facebook, why now?

Well, I compare it to LinkedIn (which is the competitor that comes up the most in conversations), Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku. All of which have a social network component where you can keep track of your friends. First, Facebook has far better contact management than Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku. If I look up someone on all three networks Facebook shows me more, brings it up faster, and has a better look into their own social networks. That leaves LinkedIn to compare it to. I dropped off LinkedIn a year ago cause the expected useage model there is to have your friends do things for you. Pass along resumes, give references, etc. (…) There is no such expectation on Facebook.(…)

To tell you the truth, the reason Facebook is the better networking tool is BECAUSE it’s personal. (…)

What other reasons are there for Facebook now?

Quality of people on the network. When I say my Facebook contact list is like a who’s who of the Tech Industry, I’m very serious. And I’m still adding more people to my friends network. I’ve been on Facebook for about a month and I’ve already gotten 2,452 friends. (…)

But, that brings us to the grand daddy. Facebook’s application platform.

This is the real reason why I turned on Facebook. I don’t really care about the social network piece. There’s already other places I can get that. (…) But now my social network brings me cool applications. Well, some cool ones, like iLike and Zoho. But a lot of really crappy ones. It’s interesting to see what people add to their profiles, though. I wish I could see when people remove things from their profiles, in addition to adding them. (…)

Anyway, it’s the application platform that got me interested in Facebook and THAT is where I expect to see the hot new advertising models pop up.

What it means: I’ve recently heard (or read) that you have to have a Facebook profile if you want to be taken seriously in the Valley and that it’s slowly (or quickly!) replacing LinkedIn as THE networking site for business. BTW, I’ve been beefing up my network recently and if you want to add me as a friend, click here. 🙂 I think that what’s happening is that personal and professional online social lives are merging. But I also think we’ll need to be able to create closed networks for friends & family as you don’t want to share everything with everyone. Finally, I think the fact that Facebook is a “closed” network (closed to search engines, that is) with a lot of traffic & social interactions makes it a credible threat to Google.

6 Qualities Of A Good Social Network

Brian Balfour from the Social Degree Blog talks about the various qualities of a social network. He proposes three broad characteristics that great social networks share and his readers add three others.

  1. Personality/Identity: “The best of social networks have their own personality or identity, just like a living being.”
  2. Fun: “They are a place to socially interact with other people”
  3. Genuine: “user interactions are for the best of the community”
  4. Utilitarian: “for example the knowledge sharing on Delicious in the form of shared bookmarks” (proposed by Andrew Weissman)
  5. Self promotion: “Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors (…) By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.” (Via CNN, proposed by Lafayette Howell)
  6. Trusted: “I think people keep coming back to a site because they can trust the information that is on it is genuine” (proposed by Robert Franklin)

What it means: two thoughts. First, in my personal experience, the utilitarian aspect of social tools always win. I’m completely addicted to Linkedin and I’m starting to appreciate more and more (3 years after everyone else!). Might be because they help me a lot in my professional life. Second, I think the social networking phenomenon within the teen and young adult communities is really all about quantifying popularity. The number of “friends” you have on MySpace (for example) shows others how popular and “in” you are. To a certain extent, it validates your worth vs. your peers. This would be the “Self-promotion” aspect discussed above.

Cyworld Invades the US

One of my first blog posts mentioned Cyworld, the social network from Korea with an interesting freemium business model. The Financial Times (via Joshua Mack’s blog) has a follow-up on their US introduction.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“At seven years old, Cyworld is a veritable veteran in the world of social networking. A dominant force in South Korea, where up to 90 per cent of under 20s are believed to be Cyworld members, the website is now looking for eyeballs in other parts of the world. Top on the list of new targets is the US, the world’s biggest media market. But the US market is already dominated by a younger rival, MySpace, which Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought last year. It turns three years old next month and is by far the world’s biggest social networking site, with 140m members.”

“At first Cyworld was not sure if it could attract a US audience in light of MySpace’s dominance. Research showed that many people have two to four social networking sites, says Michael Streefland, director of marketing for Cyworld. “There is a site for the real you, a rite of passage site that you would join during a particular phase of your life, and the fun, hot, new trend site,” Mr Streefland says.””Cyworld is betting that it will appeal to the “real you”, making it part of people’s lives for many years. Facebook, the second biggest social networking site in the US, fits in the second category. Mr Streefland believes that MySpace falls into the latter segment, meaning that people will stop using it after a few months as they get bored or exhausted of the effort of having to maintain “cool” personas.”

“One of the biggest threats to the popularity of all three sites are technological glitches. Already, News Corp’s internet executives scrutinise a weekly report that shows how long it takes for MySpace users to access new pages. Indeed, Mr Streefland attributes the success of Cyworld, owned by SK Telecom,and MySpace to the fact that both have corporate parents with expertise and deep pockets. “”Another is the risk of driving users away with over-commercialisation. To this end, most sites are limiting the amount of advertising, and other sources of revenue such as deals with mobile phone operators or e-commerce – 80 per cent of Cyworld’s income in South Korea – are being pursued.”

What it means: I’m still fascinated by Cyworld’s business model, i.e. micro-transactions of “acorns” (the Cyworld currency) to decorate your mini-room and avatar. There are also major opportunities for brand sponsorships. What I don’t understand though is Michael Streefland’s positioning statement. I don’t know if Cyworld is really this site for the “real you” or a rite of passage one like MySpace. I believe Reid Hoffman is trying to make LinkedIn the social networking site for the real you. And I think he might be right for anyone over 30.

By the way, we’ve created a basic avatar and mini-room at . Feel free to add us as a friend!