Facebook flipped the switch on its single sign-on technology Thursday. Facebook Connect can now be implemented by any site on the internet on a self-service basis through the company's platform for web developers. The company says over 100 websites have added Facebook Connect during the testing period or will release it within the coming weeks. Several high-profile websites are on the list, including Digg, CNET, Gawker, Vimeo and several universities.
It's culturally incorrect to even suggest that the open and incessant sharing of information isn't a wonderful thing. We know more the more we know, or so the conventional wisdom goes, and not only should anything be everyone's business, but it should be provided without charge. History is a dialectic about information struggling to be free. Freedom of information evangelists call this "radical transparency" and label it an absolute good. Others might call it chaos. I worry that most of us live in the gap between this theory and reality its pursuit invents.
Openness is the mega-trend for innovation in the 21st century, and it remains the topic du jour for businesses of all kinds. Granted, it has been on the agenda of every executive ever since Henry Chesbrough’s seminal Open Innovation came out in 2003. However, as several new books elaborate upon the concept from different perspectives, and a growing number of organizations have recently launched ambitious initiatives to expand the paradigm to other areas of business, I thought it might be a good time to reframe “Open” from a design point of view.
Wired asked Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle, the creators of the Web 2.0 conferences, to debate the issues raised in our Web RIP cover package. Over a number of days, Tim and John traded emails with Wired magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson, who wrote one half of “The Web Is Dead.” Surprisingly, Tim agreed that the Web is the “adolescent” phase of the Internet’s evolution and that we are seeing a shift toward a more closed phase in the networked age’s cycles. John, however, was having none of it…
The Internet is a medium that is evolving at breakneck speed. It’s a wild organism of sweeping cultural change — one that leaves the carcasses of dead media forms in its sizeable wake. It’s transformative: it has transformed the vast globe into a ‘global village’ and it has drawn human communication away from print-based media and into a post-Gutenberg digital era. Right now, its perils are equal to its potential. The debate over ‘net neutrality’ is at a fever pitch. There is a tug-of-war going on between an ‘open web’ and a more governed form of the web (like the Apple-approved apps on the iPad/iPhone) that has more security but less freedom.
In an emerging battle over regulating Internet access, companies are taking sides. Facebook, one of the companies that has flourished on the open Internet, indicated Wednesday that it did not support a proposal by Google and Verizon that critics say could let providers of Internet access chip away at that openness. Meanwhile an executive of AT&T, one of the companies that stands to profit from looser regulations, called the proposal a “reasonable framework.” Most media companies have stayed mute on the subject, but in an interview this week, the media mogul Barry Diller called the proposal a sham. And outside of technology circles, most people have not yet figured out what is at stake. The debate revolves around net neutrality, which in the broadest sense holds that Internet users should have equal access to all types of information online, and that companies offering Internet service should not be able to give priority to some sources or types of content.
The era of the Web browser’s dominance is coming to a close. And the Internet’s founding ideology—that information wants to be free, and that attempts to constrain it are not only hopeless but immoral— suddenly seems naive and stale in the new age of apps, smart phones, and pricing plans. What will this mean for the future of the media—and of the Web itself?
Based on the work we have been doing at 100%Open, a U.K.-based open-innovation agency, we believe that those organizations that embrace and default to "open" will be in the best position to innovate better, cheaper, and faster. So what are the most important issues facing executives looking to implement or adopt open-design principles? Here are three of them:
On the surface it may appear that Google simply created Buzz as a social network add-on for Gmail. But in reality the Mountain View, Calif. search engine launched the beginning of a hub that could eventually connect to forums, third-party PC and mobile applications, as well as other social sites. Google recognizes the need to allow data and people to seamlessly travel between portals and Web sites. Gmail Buzz users will get a better picture of that soon.
The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is. This is the headquarters of Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories.
When does the wisdom of crowds give way to the meanness of mobs? In the 1990s, Jaron Lanier was one of the digital pioneers hailing the wonderful possibilities that would be realized once the Internet allowed musicians, artists, scientists and engineers around the world to instantly share their work. Now, like a lot of us, he is having second thoughts. Mr. Lanier, a musician and avant-garde computer scientist — he popularized the term “virtual reality” — wonders if the Web’s structure and ideology are fostering nasty group dynamics and mediocre collaborations.
In a manifesto-like e-mail message sent last month to all Google employees, Jonathan Rosenberg, a senior vice president for product management, told them to commit to greater transparency and open industry standards. Rather than hoard knowledge to exploit it, he wrote in “The Meaning of Open,” share it and watch Google and the entire Internet prosper. With the Chrome browser, however, Google’s inclusive principles are being put to the test: a new version of the browser allows, one might even say encourages, users to stop Google ads from appearing. How Google got to such a position speaks to the inherent dynamism (or is that chaos?) of business on the Internet.
Google’s SVP-Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg has published a manifesto explaining Google’s commitment to open systems. The post — otherwise a paean to the virtues of openness — contains a crucial caveat about the proprietary platforms that provide 99% of Google’s revenue.
Websites live or die based on how a small group of programmers at Google decide their sites should rank in Google’s main search results. As the “router” of the vast majority of traffic on the internet, Google’s secret ranking algorithm is probably is the most powerful piece of software code on the planet. Google talks a lot about openness and their commitment to open source software. What they are really doing is practicing a classic business strategy known as “commoditizing the complement“*.
Last week I sent an email to Googlers about the meaning of "open" as it relates to the Internet, Google, and our users. In the spirit of openness, I thought it would be appropriate to share these thoughts with those outside of Google as well. At Google we believe that open systems win. They lead to more innovation, value, and freedom of choice for consumers, and a vibrant, profitable, and competitive ecosystem for businesses. Many companies will claim roughly the same thing since they know that declaring themselves to be open is both good for their brand and completely without risk. After all, in our industry there is no clear definition of what open really means. It is a Rashomon-like term: highly subjective and vitally important.
As a year winds down in which criticism of Google was perhaps never louder, the company used a quiet preholiday afternoon to post a manifesto on what it means to be "open." Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president of product management, originally wrote the "The meaning of open" as a memo to employees, but posted it on Google's official blog Monday. In the essay, Rosenberg lays out Google's belief that the use of open technologies and open information are two of Google's most important core values, although reasonable people can disagree on the meaning of "open" in various contexts.
In the discussion about news, there’s always a divide – because news loves divides. The splits have been old v. new, MSM v. blogs, professional v. amateur, institutional v. entrepreneurial, and lately paid v. free. But I fear another divide we’re beginning to see develop is walled v. open. The legacy players – in what I believe is their last-ditch effort to save their old ways, models, and empires — are threatening to put up walls. News Corp. is forever rumored to be putting up both pay walls and more walls to keep Google’s hordes of Huns (aka us useless asshats) out. Some say: Fine, digital suicide couldn’t happen to a better mogul. But I say we should fear the precedent, the balkanization of the web into isolated worlds. It’s true that all the data on the web is not today available via search — content trapped in data bases, in Flash, in comments, in video — though I see continuing efforts to bring that content into the tent. The momentum is toward including ever more data. But now come Murdoch and Microsoft, threatening to take their balls and go home. It’s their right to do so; as Google always points out, it’s also easy to do so.
In the ongoing saga of paid content on the Web, Rupert Murdoch is once again threatening to pull his Web sites from Google's search results. In a Sky News interview posted online this week, he said "There's not enough advertising in the world to make all the Web sites profitable. We'd rather have fewer people coming to our Web sites, but paying." Meanwhile, social game maker Playfish, with estimated revenues of up to $75 million from selling virtual goods in its games on Facebook and other platforms, has been acquired by Electronic Arts in a deal worth up to $400 million. The company is not alone in turning virtual goods into gold: Playfish rival Zynga reportedly brings in over $100 million in revenue (a proportion of which, admittedly, is driven by schemes in which users receive virtual currency when signing up for questionable special offers). Even The New York Times is heralding the "real paydays" being delivered by virtual goods on Facebook; such stories run counter to the common wisdom that social networking sites are difficult to monetize.
It's the hot design company hired by Apple to create its first mouse, (and by Microsoft to create its second), by the Post Office to rework the postbox, by Muji to create its wall-mounted CD player and by Procter & Gamble to reinvent toothpaste tubes. It made the Nokia N-gage, the Palm V and the Head Airflow tennis racquet. Now IDEO is being retained by Barack Obama's White House to help to reinvigorate the American civil service; by the government of Iceland to help the country to innovate its way out of financial crisis; and by the Kellogg Foundation to reinvent education. It might seem bizarre that a company used to designing products is now solving country-sized problems, but it all comes down to the technique it pioneered and preached to its clients. It calls this philosophy "design thinking".
In a recent meeting at Facebook HQ, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Facebook is opening it’s doors to share roadmaps, data, and it’s experience. This strategy shifts attention towards Facebook.com as a sole destination, and towards a distributed network to the open web. Looking deeper, these impacts should shape your corporate web strategy as you re-allocate resources for application development, prepare for Social CRM, and prepare your corporate webpages to become “Facebook Fan Page” enabled.
You can hardly have a conversation about social media today without discussing the concept of transparency. More and more, companies are incorporating transparency into their marketing efforts. Why? The reason, according to Debbie Weil, a corporate social media consultant and author of The Corporate Blogging Book, is because customers and stakeholders increasingly expect it. “It (transparency) is the new operating standard,” she said. Transparency is about being open, honest, and accountable. It’s about responsibility. People are listening to you and making evaluations and decisions based upon what you say, and as such, it’s important to take responsibility for the messaging you put out there. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh explains it best, “I think people worry too much about bringing their personal selves into business, when I think the way to succeed in today’s world is to make your business more personal.” For those looking to refine their social media messaging, here are five ways to become more transparent.
I recently stumbled across the cluetrain manifesto again. It had a big impact on me when I first read it ten years ago. At the time, I was building web sites for big companies and it gave voice to a lot of the frustration I felt trying to get these companies to really embrace the potential of engaging with consumers directly. I worked with an airline that refused to handle any consumer inquiries generated by their web site. They actually had an in-house call center for reservations, but didn't even want their phone number listed on the site (let alone an email address). For them, the web site was a cheaper way to book reservations, and they were trying to lower transaction costs, not increase consumer loyalty. This was particularly odd because the airline prided itself on in-flight customer service.
I spent yesterday marking the dangers around Sidewiki. Today, I’ll say what I think Google should do with it: close the toolbar app, open it up to the entire conversation, and turn it purely into an API. And probably buy Technorati. I read a great deal of the discussion about Sidewiki yesterday: much of it in the comments on my blog post, much found through search in Technorati and Google News, much through trackbacks, much on Twitter, much through links on sites I read, and a tiny bit on Sidewiki itself (sorry, can’t find a URL to link to that). Some of the comments said the conversation is already fractured and my trail would seem to prove the point. That was the common word – fractured. But I’d quibble with the choice and argue that the conversation isn’t broken; that it is occurring just where it should be: in the cloud, where it is controlled by no one.
Every few days, I get an email asking this question: “I have this awesome idea to help X, but I’m not sure what direction to take. Do I open things up to the crowd to collaborate and target a mass audience? Or do I put everything together myself and target a specific group?” This is a question everyone from the biggest brand to the smallest start-up is asking: should you go with the crowd or should you go niche?
Although the world of business development partnerships can be complex, rife with epic contracts with tie-ins and promises, expirations and penalties for all parties, when relationships are struck that reduce customer choice, it is a telltale sign that the product or service being provided is well below acceptable standards. You see, customers aren’t stupid. They will be your product and company’s loudest advocates, more than willing to spread the word on your behalf, if you have a game-changing offering. But if you have to rely on bundling and exclusive contracts just to rope customers in, you probably don’t have something they want all that much anyway.
Lately I've been paying closer attention to how people use social media. Not just their usage of the tools, but how they use the tools to interact with other people. What I'm noticing, and surprisingly this comes from the so-called 'experts' as well, is that many people can be decidedly anti-social in the way they use social media. I've seen company representatives get snippy and angry if they are challenged even mildly in blog comments. People on Twitter that speak in statements, that actually discourages interaction. Of course there's always no shortage of people that promote themselves and their companies, but never anyone else.
I've been following a fascinating 3-part series of posts this week by Greg Boutin, founder of Growthroute Ventures. The series aimed to tie together three big trends, all based around structured data: 1) the still nascent "Web 3.0" concept, 2) the relatively new kid on the structured Web block, Linked Data, and 3) the long-running saga that is the Semantic Web. Greg's series is probably the best explanation I've read all year about the way these trends are converging. In this post I'll highlight some of Greg's thoughts and add some of my own.
TED is turning to the crowd for help in opening its popular talks to a broader audience. The Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, which turned a Swedish academic into a rock star and introduced the world to Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight, has launched a new project to translate its celebrated video talks. And it wants your help.
If you hear someone talking about "open source," it's quite possible that this isn't what they mean. One major soft drink company, for example, was talking about turning their brand open source. Pretty unlikely. Do you think that they meant allowing anyone to use their brand in any way they chose on a share and share alike basis? As change swirls around, the terms matter.
About two weeks ago, Alexander Van Elsas had an interesting post where he asked several questions about the current state of web applications. If everything becomes open and connected, what will happen to the big destinations? Why is the web rapidly evolving into uncountable databases with connections, instead of one database where everything connects? If all services and destinations become open, then what is the point in being a destination site in the first place? Why are we creating webs within webs, instead of one network that connects it all? After thinking for a little bit, I realized that these questions are far from answered, and the answers are going to get harder to find.
Despite China’s massively growing internet market, international giants like Google and Facebook are having trouble making gains with the 300 million Chinese online users. China’s netizens are on average very young – 66.7 % of them are younger than 29 years old and 35.2 % of them are teenagers—with social networking and entertainment applications being the most popular. While companies like Facebook struggle to conquer market share in China and to create viable business models everywhere, their Chinese clones have built lucrative cash machines literally earning billions of dollars a year. Unfortunately, adopting Chinese methods may not help American social networks due both to cultural differences in Chinese user behavior and industry practices.
Boxee, a free software package that pulls together multiple sources of Internet video in an easy-to-use interface, has quietly been building an army of ardent fans. But what is it about Boxee that is driving the technorati wild?
If telecoms are to get $4 billion in stimulus funds for broadband that enables Facebook for farmers and netbooks for mountain men, then the feds must require the new networks to be open and nondiscriminatory, public interest groups told federal bureaucrats Monday.
As promised, Facebook has begun allowing users to open up all or part of their profiles for anyone to see. The move is part of the overhaul Facebook announced earlier this month meant to promote more and broader content sharing by individual users and companies.
The closer you get to someone, something, some brand, some organization... the harder it is to demonize it, objectify it or hate it. So, if you want to not be hated, open up. Let people in. Engage. Interact.
The peanut butter recall is expanding, and now includes some Clif bars, General Mills products, Kellogg cookies, Keebler crackers, and a swath of private label products. Little Debbie voluntarily recalled its peanut butter crackers, just in case. A bunch of brand names have vociferously declared that their products are "safe," have no connection to the culprit factory, or simply haven't been named in the recall. Are you reassured?