Facebook Declines to Join the OpenSocial Foundation

Facebook pledges support for open-source standards, just not for the OpenSocial Foundation. Microsoft remains undecided.

Facebook has declined to join the OpenSocial Foundation, a blow to an effort forged by Google, Yahoo and MySpace to create applications that work across disparate social networking Web sites.

"As the largest contributor to the memecached system, Facebook has long been a leader and supporter of open source initiatives, but will not join the foundation," a spokesperson for the company told eWEEK March 25.


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"The company will continue to evaluate partnership opportunities that will benefit the 300,000 Facebook Platform developers while improving the Facebook user experience."

The move all but ensures Facebook will not endorse the OpenSocial spec, whose creators will have to soldier on despite the absence of the second largest social network, with 68 million users. MySpace, which helped Google launch the OpenSocial effort Nov. 1, has about 110 million users, but Facebook has been growing faster worldwide.

To read more about the formation of the OpenSocial Foundation, click here.

Microsoft, which works closely with Facebook since investing $240 million in the startup, is undecided about joining OpenSocial.

"We constantly evaluate our involvement in industry groups and look for opportunities where it's appropriate to join the dialogue, but have nothing to announce at this time," John Richards, director of Windows Live Platform, told eWEEK in an e-mailed statement.

A Yahoo official, speaking on a call to announce the OpenSocial Foundation, said Microsoft is welcome to join.

"As an open specification, I think that any large player should be welcome to participate and we would welcome others to participate in this specification moving forward," said Wade Chambers, vice president of platforms at Yahoo, which Microsoft is trying to acquire for roughly $42 billion.

However, Microsoft may be going in a different direction with its Live platform. Earlier today, the software company unveiled its Windows Live Contacts API, which will let users of Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged and LinkedIn move their contacts between the various services.

A Free and Unencumbered Covenant

A few new details emerged from the conference hosted by Google, Yahoo and MySpace members to unveil the OpenSocial Foundation.

Joe Kraus, founder of JotSpot, who is now director of product management for Google, said that Yahoo, MySpace and Google have agreed to enter into a patent non-assertion covenant to ensure that no one "party had undue influence" over OpenSocial.

Ideally, this will encourage developers to implement the OpenSocial spec without fear that Google will squash their efforts. Once the foundation is created, it will obtain similar covenants from all contributors to ensure the level playing field.

"Developers and container partners should be secure in knowing that OpenSocial will remain free and unencumbered" Kraus added. Google will contribute the OpenSocial trademark and the OpenSocial.org Web site to the OpenSocial Foundation, he said.

Kraus also said the OpenSocial spec does not dictate monetization policies, noting that each social network that uses OpenSocial can choose to monetize and split revenue with developers in any way they choose. Any revenues coming into the foundation will be put toward evangelizing the spec and not distributed to constituents.

Yahoo's Chambers declined to say how Yahoo will leverage the OpenSocial APIs on Yahoo. Yahoo has smaller social networks like Flickr and del.icio.us, but doesn't have a large social networking presence like MySpace or Facebook.

Meanwhile, Steve Pearman, senior vice president of product strategy at MySpace, said OpenSocial applications for the MySpace Developer Platform are moving beyond toys and widgets to becoming real features for the social network. Pearman cited the Picnik photo-editing application as an example of a useful tool users can get from MySpace.