protocol – Stay N Alive

Google: You Have the Same Thing as Facebook – Why Not Promote It?

Google is sitting on a gold mine opportunity right now and all I hear is complaining from their employees.  Matt Cutts Deactivated his Facebook account and Tweeted about it to tell the story.  Chris Messina called Facebook the dreaded “evil” word, and criticized the idea for being decentralized.  Frankly, I’m getting tired of it and it’s making Google look desperate.  Instead, here’s what I’d rather see Google doing:

Promote the Heck Out of Google Social Graph API

I don’t get it – Google employees are criticizing Facebook for not being decentralized when Facebook did just that.  With the OpenGraph Protocol, any platform on the web can now implement a similar Pages network and integrate with the network of Pages Facebook is bringing into its own network. The opportunity is open to all, not just Facebook.  Facebook even went to the extent of releasing that protocol under the Open Web Foundation agreement, solidifying that they were okay with others copying it.

Google has been promoting something similar – XFN links and FOAF attachments (along with “me” relationship identifiers to identify an individual as the same person across the web).  In fact, Google built an API around it so others can have access to these protocols.  Guess what?  Facebook has an API as well for the OpenGraph protocol (called, quite similar “Graph API”).  Has Google opened up their Social Graph API? No. (meaning, not any other network can copy the protocol of the API and use it as their platform as well)  Neither has Facebook.  There’s nothing wrong with that – they have to compete.

Google has a huge opportunity right now to be riding the coattails of Facebook on this announcement by promoting its SocialGraph API and how it’s a little better for the web than what Facebook is doing with its API around the OpenGraph.  Rather than complain about what Facebook is doing, why not take the positive route and push that you have something better?  Google has an incredible opportunity here to finally make the SocialGraph API really big, and they’re squashing it by spending their energy canceling their Facebook accounts and criticizing their efforts publicly.  I think it’s totally the wrong move for Google to be making right now.  Their PR department needs to get ahold of their employees and formulate a strategy for response.

Promote the Heck Out of Google Friend Connect

On top of the APIs and OpenGraph or SocialGraph related protocols (again, emphasis on the protocol being the open part of both networks – none of the other stuff, on both Google and Facebook’s side is), all that was launched by Facebook on Wednesday was a series of Widgets that lie on top of all this to make implementation of everything very easy.  Google has the same thing, yet I have not heard one peep from Google employees about it since then.

Google’s product is called Friend Connect.  Look at the Friend Connect page of widgets here and then look at the OpenGraph Social Plugins page here and tell me how they differ?  The main difference is Google actually has more widgets than Facebook does.  Kevin Marks, former Google employee who initiated OpenSocial and the Friend Connect program at Google, was quick to point out to me on Twitter that even Friend Connect has a like button (you can see it on his iPad Knees Up site in the upper-right here), and it requires a Google login to use!  How is that any different than what Facebook is offering?  You can see an example of Friend Connect in action over to the right where you see everyone’s profile pictures (note you didn’t even have to log in to see those, and there is no opt-out).

This is Google’s time to shine – show businesses that they can promote Twitter users and iGoogle users and Buzz users and Orkut users, and provide all the same functionality Facebook is providing, just as easy as they are (with the exception of that extremely simple Graph API Facebook just launched).  Come up with new features that compete where you’re not at their level yet.  The world doesn’t know about this yet.  Google has more people using its network than Facebook does – Google needs to flaunt this, not complain.

Start Building on Facebook’s OpenGraph API and Stop Complaining

I’m sure I’ll get plenty of complaining responses by Google employees and former Google employees from this, but, I really hope they take this to heart and rather than argue with me on this, just go out and promote the products that they have.  They potentially have something even bigger than what Facebook has, and it’s extremely important that the world knows about this.

Google really should consider taking advantage of this new protocol by Facebook – integrate it on its own sites, just as it expects Facebook to do with FOAF and XFN.  Find ways to search and index this data in ways that Facebook just doesn’t have the advantage.  They should find ways to integrate Facebook login (it’s just OAuth 2.0 now!) into their Friend Connect login process – Facebook’s being completely open in this.

I’ve been arguing on Twitter with Kevin Marks about Google’s past attempts to integrate Facebook Connect into Friend Connect.  They were denied, because they were displaying user data without user permission before.  He referred to this page in the Terms of Use for Facebook.  The thing is, Facebook has provided means around this problem.  Facebook is all about user privacy, even down to the developers that integrate their platform.  Google got shut down because they weren’t using the means Facebook set out to use their data.  There is a specific permissions API Facebook released within a month after Google launched Facebook support in Friend Connect (and got shut down), just to solve Google’s problem and Google never used it.

It’s time Google start accepting these Facebook social graphs.  Let us bring our Facebook friends into Google’s network – there’s not even a storage limit any more!  Google needs to start playing nice or they’re going to get left in the dust.  It’s time to stop complaining and take the ball back into your own court, Google.  Otherwise I’m going to have no choice but to abandon Google products and go where my real friends are playing.  That’s not a threat – it’s just the reality of where I’m being forced to go.

Twitter a Ubiquitous Utility? Open Up a Little!

electricityI’m completely stumped by the recent media blitz by Twitter co-founders, Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey.  They seem to be traveling the nation like rock stars, willing to say anything and everything about whatever the media wants to hear, as their service sits broken on the sidelines and the world wonders where their much needed Twitter has gone, or why their favorite app is down.  Hey, it’s not my company though, so I’m sure they have their reasons, and good for them for enjoying and celebrating their success.

But then we see statements like that of Jack Dorsey, a reputable coder like myself, and someone I highly respect, stating, “I think Twitter’s a success for us when people stop talking about it, when we stop doing these panels and people just use it as a utility, use it like electricity…It fades into the background, something that’s just a part of communication. We put it on the same level as any communication device. So, e-mail, SMS, phone. That’s where we want to be.”  Of course he’s saying this while his co-founders are touring the nation, visiting Oprah and Ashton and every major News outlet on the planet trying to get people to talk about Twitter.  The thing is, I don’t care how useful Twitter is or has become (Despite the negatives that I’ve written about Twitter, I’ve written just as many positives), Twitter will never become a “Utility” until they open up a little, and I don’t just mean from a PR perspective (actually, I don’t mean that at all). I mean from an architecture perspective.

My friend (and fellow co-writer), Rob Diana, thinks that Twitter is on its way to becoming infrastructure.  I’m not arguing that’s not possible.  In fact, I really think Twitter has the masses to make that happen.  However, to make it the caliber of a “Utility”, or like “Electricity”, to me seems far-fetched when in the end, there is always a Twitter brand wrapped around it and no way for the public to have any control of that data.  Until they remove those chains, Twitter is and always will be just another communications Service, not a Utility.  Twitter will never blend into the background until they open up some.

Let’s look at some example utilities:


We’ll start with the most obvious.  Electricity is a natural force.  It can only be created by utilizing existing energy.  Various “Utilities” have found ways to harness this energy to create this electricity and deliver it to your home.  However no single company owns that electricity, and each company is using the existing, open, laws of physics to harness and deliver such electricity to your home.  No single company controls how electricity gets created or delivered.  In fact, depending on your own local laws, you could even create your own electricity, and live independent from any single “Utility” company that also provides such service.


Water is very similar.  Each company provides a “service” or “utility” around cleaning the water supplies and routing them to your home.  However, there’s nothing stopping any individual (other than government) from collecting their own water, and purifying it themselves for consumption.  It’s bound only by the laws of Physics, and lives on a completely open model.


Perhaps even closer to Twitter’s turf than Electricity, the Phone is an open communications process.  A “utility” company delivers the lines to get a signal from the sender’s phone, to a routing operator, and over to the recipient.  However the underlying technology sending a phone’s signal from sender to recipient and back is not proprietary to any one single company.  It’s simple Electricity (there’s that word again) and open protocols, and based on completely open (the most open) standards, bound simply by the laws of Physics.

So how in the world can a company like Twitter become like “Electricity”, flowing as the infrastructure of communication with little to no knowledge of those using the service?  It comes down to the laws of Physics.  Twitter needs to stop making the rules.  They need to open up 100%, open up their code-base, release a protocol, and start letting people run their own Federated Twitter servers that can be run in any environment, speak the same protocol, and in essence, be invisible to those using the service.  Twitter’s current model will never take them there.

Google’s leading the way here with Wave.  The funny thing is Google employees aren’t going around bragging that their service will become like “Electricity” (okay, well maybe their name kind of implies that).  What will happen is that you’ll be familiar with the Wave Product, which will become like Gmail and many, many users will use it since Google was first-to-market.  However, what most users will not be aware of is that the way they communicate elsewhere will also be powered by Google Wave technology.  Google Wave is also a Protocol, and built on an Open-Source Architecture.  You’ll be able to run your own Wave servers, or even write your own services that speak the Wave protocol.  Your users will never even know their communication went through a Google product.

I’m afraid Twitter has some serious competition as long as they want to become a Utility and Google Wave is in open development.  Because they’ve waited to enter the Open arena, Google may just beat them to the punch on the “Utility” game.  Jack Dorsey’s a smart guy.  Twitter’s a great and powerful platform.  However, I’m afraid they’re focusing too much on the platform and the product and not enough on what should really be the “Electricity” of their system – the communication.

Twitter, it’s time to open up guys.  I’m itching to use some of that “Electricity” of yours.