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OpenSocial, OpenID, and Google Gears: Three technologies for history's dustbin

A poke is not a revolution

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Fail and You Hey, does anybody remember Google's OpenSocial? Come on, it hasn't even been a year since it was announced. OpenSocial was supposed to unify social network application developers behind one common API. Revolutionary, innovative, all that shit.

Still nothing? Ah, okay. What about OpenID, the best damned federated authentication scheme the world has ever seen, but nobody in the world can figure out how to use? If not, surely you must have heard of Google Gears. This was the Firefox plug-in that was supposed to establish Google as a first-rate operating system vendor, even before Chrome was supposed to do the exact same thing?

I'm still waiting for these technologies to change the world...any day now.

It's Like A Venereal Disease Transmitted by TCP/IP

If there's one thing all engineers love to do, it's create APIs. It's so awesome because you can draw on a white board and feel like you put in a good day's work, despite having solved no real, actual problems. Web 2.0 engineers, in addition to their intrinsic love of APIs, have a real hard-on for anything having to do with a social network. For example, developing a Facebook application lets them call their shitty little PHP program an "application" running on a "platform," like a real, live computer programmer does. Make-believe time is so much fun, even for adults.

This situation gets really dangerous when you start to involve people from San Francisco. Every person who lives in San Francisco has the intention of starting a nonprofit organization of some sort. Therefore, if you collect a bunch of Web 2.0 engineers in San Francisco, the inevitable outcome is the OpenSocial Foundation: a nonprofit organization that only exists to support an API for programming social network applications.

As a result of this upbringing, programming with the OpenSocial API feels a bit like being bukkaked with tolerance and understanding.

Like every other product Google has released since search and ads, OpenSocial has been a dud. It served its purpose: generating talk about Google in the social networking sphere, all the while being thinly veiled as an act of benevolence. Unfortunately, excitement died off quickly as people remembered that they don't really give a shit about social networks. To date, Google's featured OpenSocial applications are:

  • BuddyPoke - "Hug, kiss, tickle, or punch your friends with your own personalized 3D avatar."
  • PayPal - "Make transactions with your friends via PayPal."
  • My NYT - "Get the latest [New York Times] news and share articles with your friends."

My, what a hotbed of innovation.

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