A Work of Fiction: True Soc Net Interoperability

It's Like Everyone's at the Same Dinner Party, but No One's Talking to Each Other

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Craig Daitch Craig Daitch also writes the blog Thought Industry.
The following is a work of fiction, based on recent moves by Google, MySpace and Facebook. All have built up walled silos of data and recently introduced tools to let users more easily share that data among other web sites and services. But while these companies trumpet "openness" and "interoperability," I don't see it. Yet, at least.

Imagine you're throwing an elaborate dinner party. To add a twist of social intrigue, you request that your guests bring three friends to the event. Your first group arrives, we'll call them the Googles, and all is well. The Googles are chatting on a myriad of topics at a velocity difficult to keep up with. No mind, they're entertaining themselves while you prepare the finishing touches on dinner.

Moments later, another group arrives. We'll call them the Facebooks. Arriving with more gifts than they can carry, they too begin chatting away. However you quickly notice that they seem to be keeping to themselves, blatantly ignoring the Googles. Disappointed, you slowly forgive their perceived haughtiness -- for the Facebooks brought a cake and a pair of champagne glasses. "They'd be great company," you comment to your significant other, "if only they would stop writing jibberish on our wall!"

Just as the conversation starts dying down, there's a loud knock at the door. As you attempt to open it to greet your guests, the MySpaces barge in with a menagerie of eclectics armed with camera phones and loud music. Bringing with them a litany of tunes, the party has officially started. Beckoning you to take a few pictures, you oblige. Funny though, you think to yourself, "why do they insist on sucking their cheeks in like that?"

Fast forward to later in the evening...

The party's in full swing. The guests are enjoying themselves and seem to be having a great time. Yet under closer inspection, you soon realize that the volume of conversations are not intertwined and the same cliques that walked into your home remain in tact with no discussion between them.

Frustrated, you stand up from your chair and decide to create an icebreaker. You ask if everyone would like to play a game; they all nod in approval, with the exception of one Facebook invitee who has decided to ignore you. Typical.

You inform your company that you'd like to start a story telling game. Each guest completes a sentence based on the previous guest's sentence. "Facebook," you ask, "can you please start the game?"

The Facebooks smile and begin to speak, each guest completing a sentence, one after the other. As the last Facebook guest finished their sentence, you turn your attention to the Googles. They smile politely but say nothing.

"Go ahead Googles, no sense in being shy," you say.

"Shy?" one of the Googles asks.

"Why yes. Aren't you going to continue the story?" you say.

"Story?" The Google guest looks inquisitively. "I didn't realize the story began."

Exasperated, you turn to the Facebooks, emphatically waving your hands in their general direction. "Googles, they've been speaking for five minutes. Haven't you been paying attention?"

"Well sure, but we don't speak their language," says a Google.

"But we're all speaking the same language!" you protest.

"Actually, we speak a slightly different variance on the same language, making interoperable communication unfeasible." a Google replies while pushing up her glasses.

"So wait a minute -- how are you claiming openness if you can't even speak to each other?! I can use my Gmail account to send messages to my friends using Hotmail. Why can't I talk to my buddies in the same manner across social networks? All of these conversations regarding your open initiatives -- Facebook Connect, Friend Connect and MySpace Data Availability is just a bunch of ... hey, has anyone seen where the MySpaces went?"

Suddenly a loud crash is heard in the kitchen.

"DUDE!" one of the MySpaces exclaimed running out of the kitchen. "I really hope you didn't need those Champagne glasses..."

"TOM, you are SO not my friend!" What could've been a great social event amongst networks has left you disappointed. You walk to the kitchen to clean up the mess as your guests go back to their conversations, separately, sadly and without acknowledgement that they're in the presence of others.
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