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Fifty Million Facebook Users Don't Care About Google's OpenSocial APIs

"Is Facebook toast? Nope, not in my opinion."

Don Dodge's Blog:The Next Big Thing 

There are 50 million Facebook users who don't know what OpenSocial APIs are...and don't care. There are about 5,000 tech bloggers and developers who think it is a revolution that will "Checkmate" Facebook and leave them with no moves. TechMeme has over 100 stories saying that OpenSocial is awesome and Facebook is dead. MySpace joins Google on OpenSocial initiative. OK, surely that settles it, Facebook is dead toast. Nope, not in my opinion.

Are Facebook users going to cancel their account? No, I doubt it. Facebook was a runaway success long before they allowed 3rd party apps and widgets. I don't see Facbook users leaving because some widget might not be available, and I don't see widget developers abandoning Facebook just because there is a new OpenSocial API.

OK, so is every tech blogger and social network developer going to cancel their Facebook account...and go to what? Orkut? Ning?  Even if they did, that would amount to about 5,000 users which is less than one/one hundredth of one percent of Facebook users. Or put another way 99.9999% of Facebook users will be happy to stay right where they are. And, Facebook probably adds 5,000  200,000 new users a day anyway. So the impact (revolution) will be over in one day half an hour. By next week this is old news.

Facebook is about the user community. Facebook has always been focused on the user community and providing a great user experience. Does this user community know or care that the apps are built using FBML vs. XML? Nope. There are already at least 20 other social networks out there to choose from. Are they fleeing Facebook for these alternatives? Nope. It is all about the community, and where your friends are.  Are there some users who would like to transfer their Facebook friends list to another social network? Probably some. Maybe even 5,000.

Did Facebook users approve this? When I agreed to be a friend of Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Marc Andresseen, and others on Facebook, that was just Facebook. Did I agree to have my "friend relationship" exposed on Orkut or 20 other social networks? No. Don't get me wrong, I am proud to be friends with Robert, Mike, and Marc. But, I think most users would agree that they didn't expect that their "relationship" would be exposed on other social networks. Or, that their name, picture, or any part of their personal profile would be exported to another social network. There may be a significant privacy issue here, or some questions about the use of PII (Personally Identifiable Information).

Will developers stop building Facebook apps? No, of course not. Facebook provides a pretty good API set and a pretty simple way to develop applications for Facebook. Does anyone really think that developers will abandon Facebook and instead only write to the OpenSocial API set? Seriously, what are these tech bloggers thinking? Developers are very skilled at building web apps that work on both Internet Explorer and FireFox, or Windows and Linux. It really isn't a big deal to use Facebook's FBML which is just XML with extensions.

Developers, developers, developers - To use a line from Steve Ballmer, yes, developers are critically important to the success of Facebook, or any other application platform. Facebook was first to open up their platform to developers and has done a good job providing developer support. They must continue to innovate and provide good tools and resources to developers. I think they will.

Here comes Google, and Vic Gundotra - Google hired Vic Gundotra from Microsoft to lead their developer evangelism and support organization. Vic is an expert at this and knows what developers want. This is important far beyond OpenSocial. Vic will be recruiting application developers for all of Google's platforms and services. This is how Google will attempt to move beyond being just a service...to a full platform ecosystem. Just like Microsoft did many years ago.

Not one single app has been written and not one single user has left Facebook, and already the tech cognoscenti is saying Facebook is dead. Get a grip guys.

More Stories By Don Dodge

Don Dodge has been a product, strategic and market visionary at five start-up ventures and possesses a track record of driving business and technology in entrepreneurial and high-growth environments. Most recently he was Director, Business Development at Microsoft, where he handled Venture Capital relations and business development with start-up companies in the Boston area.

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