During a keynote at Graphing Social Patterns West 2008, David Glazer, the Google engineering director responsible for OpenSocial, pumped up Nicholas Carr’s “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google,” recommending it for people who don’t know a lot about cloud computing.
But because a lot of people already know about the cloud he said those people should recommend it to those who don’t and read it anyone to appreciate the historical parallels between Edison’s grid-based electricity and grid computing.
“The forces that led to the big switch to centralize grid-based electricity are the same forces that are leading to centralized, grid-based computing services,” Glazer said.
Why would an executive responsible for ensuring that people build open social networks be talking about the cloud?
Here’s the credible tie: Glazer went on explain that while the cloud is about taking the computer out of the world, so we can be more productive the “social cloud” is about getting it out of the way so we can interact better.
“People are the killer app of the Web,” he said. He then went on to produce a number of “fortune cookie” slides, showing how what happens when you add the ability to include friends in the mix.
For example, he showed a fortune cookie proclaiming “You will shop for a new car,” and then talked about how adding “with your friends” adds value to the context of everyday tasks.
Glazer went on to discuss the notion of fragmented authentication and fragmented identity, noting that he shares identity credentials from one site to another, even though this is potentially dangerous, because it is easier. He called for the barriers to be broken down, noting that OpenID and other efforts are encouraging.
Essentially, he wants the ability to go from site to site both easily and securely. This data portability quest has become the holy grail for social networks.
Glazer was also asked whether or not OpenSocial would support Picasa, YouTube and other Google applications. He begged off from specifics, describing the company’s applications efforts as a bunch of different startups trying to do deals with each other.
He said the company needs to answer the question: “Does it make sense for those kinds of applications to take advantage of social information?” He said he’s gotten that question both about applications within Google and those outside Google.
This is a fair question, but if we look at what Glazer said previously about people being the killer app and the social cloud, why wouldn’t we mix social information with applications such as Picasa and YouTube, which are inherently social?
I believe the answer is a clear yes — Google will adapt OpenSocial to work with its Apps — even if the how remains more murky.
Want to read more about OpenSocial? Check out this Q&A.