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Noman Ali: Gadgets, Websites, Google, Social Media and SEO


Today I’d like to do something a little different. I’d like to examine some of the reasons why Facebook is finding it challenging to either a) implement data portability, or b) communicate about issues of privacy or data portability — and why ultimately, that might be OK, in the sense that it leaves room for the rest of the web to innovate.

I will examine the issue in three parts. These parts, I believe, make up the crux of any reasonable criticism of Facebook at this time.

Data Portability vs. Interoperability

First, Facebook tends to discuss data portability without acknowledging the significance of open standards and interoperability.

Data portability is not just allowing users to access their data. There is a silent “Interoperable” before the phrase that means the data, and the protocols to get it, need to be based on open standards and be interchangeable. Letting people code against your API is not the same as building the API in such a way that others (i.e. social aggregators or networks) could participate in the transactions just as easily.

Facebook’s challenge, however, is that they are pioneering many of these interactions and can’t necessarily wait for standards to emerge or crystallize before acting.

Standards emerge after a good pattern gets established. In many ways, Facebook’s leadership in demonstrating these patterns at scale shows the way (and provides the market momentum and emotional fuel) for standards to emerge. See the OExchange announcement earlier this week, for example.

The challenge for Facebook here is to balance their need (and obvious appetite) for innovation with architectural choices that allow for open standards and interoperable protocols to be absorbed by their system. To show true commitment, they must also quickly adopt standards as they emerge.

Taking these steps would put them in good position to avoid the Internet -scale forces that often reject proprietary platforms as fast as they emerge. In addition to decisive action, if Facebook clearly acknowledged this to stakeholders, it would go a long way.

Will they make these decisions rather than pay lip service? That seems unlikely.



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