I just got back from two awesome days at the Graphing Social Patterns conference (BTW, as a south bay resident, I loved that it was NOT in SF like so many of these events are!). While the conference was ostensibly focused on Facebook and its platform, I was surprised and delighted to see that almost everyone wanted to talk about the Open Social Web–how there won’t and shouldn’t be just one company owning the social graph, how sites need to be able to inter-operate, how users need more control, and how this is a real and practical problem today. People really got it, and they want to see open prevail.
Both keynotes covered these issues as major themes. Reid Hoffman said there will continue to be multiple social graphs, and that that’s a good thing. And Tim O’Reilly gave an amazing pitch for how the open social web can fix the problems with social networking today–Why can’t a site like facebook defer to a site like geni to know who’s in my family? Why can’t you use the social information inherent in my email? In my cell phone? Why can’t I have different types of relationships with different people? And his answer was “openness is good for you; all these tools will get better when they inter-operate”.
This afternoon, I participated in a panel called “Opening up the Social Graph” along with Tantek, David Recordon, Ted Grubb, and Chamath Palihapitiya (who interestingly enough also worked with Plaxo at AOL when we did our Universal Address Book integration with AIM). We had a packed house, a great discussion, and got lots of questions from the audience–people were really paying attention. At one point, Tantek asked the audience how many people out there wanted Facebook to support open standards like OpenID and microformats. The entire room raised their hands. It was a poignant moment.
And, as with most events like this, I also got a lot of opportunity to meet people in the hallways and got into a lot of great discussions. It didn’t hurt that we were giving away a bunch of “Yeah, I’d sync that.” Plaxo t-shirts, which seemed to be quite a hit. My conversation with Jason and Teresa from Web Community Forum turned into a video interview that I think nicely captured the current issues with walled gardens vs. the open social web.
Congrats to Dave McClure for pulling off such a high-impact event!
Update: The video of our panel discussion is now available.