Who to entrust your social network

The question will be gaining importance over the coming months (for the digerati) and years (for normal people ;)). With the other shoe having dropped, and now Facebook banning Google Access for Friend Connect, things are hotting up. The short version, Facebook says that they do not allow Google access because people will loose control over their personal data when they do that. This has been proven to be untrue, with the simple fact being that there is no Facebook API through which Google can tell Facebook to add a new option to people can change their sharing preferences for Friend Connect connected sites within Facebook. People can do that on the site they shared their info on or within Friend Connect, but not on Facebook, which is a Facebook problem though. Scoble adds a few more things which are relevant though, coming back to the age old problem of syncing your data across several services, something that needs to be settled once and for all and probably never will. The problem is that Facebook descided for me that it is a problem for me, which I might not agree with. (Update: Later somebody from Google comments that even that is wrong. )

The problem comes down to the fact that Facebook does not want to loose control. Share your friends with Google Friend Connect and Google knows your friend and you can theoretically leave Facebook and take your friends with you. It’s not quiet there and but that’s what this might end up in. Michael has a great post about Data Portability on Techcrunch entitled “Data Portability: It’s The New Walled Garden” and he is very right. Let me quote one bit from Michael’s article:

Let me put this another way. How dare Facebook tell ME that I cannot give Google access to this data!

I am starting to wonder if there really isn’t a huge opportunity here, but still in the wondering phase.

There is one thing I would like to add though. I personally entrust my social network to Xing for example, and I will most likely entrust it to Google and there is one simple reason for it. Motivation on the side of the service I am entrusting it to.

Xing has a clear revenue model. I pay them a monthly fee to get a few extra services and with that model they get a wonderful EBIT margin. They are doing fine and I sure hope that Lars keeps his head on straight and doesn’t do anything irrational that removes the clarity from that mission, but I am pretty sure he will do the right thing. Xing’s motivation is in getting my data, getting my connections, having my friends on there, and getting me to sign up for more services. Great. Making it more freely available is something that Xing will have to deal with because when I can access it from anywhere, I will be happy to put everyone on there, also my non-member contacts while I am at it, making it my address book, but I wrote about that before. Huge opportunities.

For Google, they are an advertising company and they want information. But beyond that, they really do want all information to be freely available because that means that they will be able to run ads again that information, find it, give people better answers, … you know what I mean. that means that my social network is just a means to an end, not the end in itself for them, as the monetization sits somewhere else. That’s the beauty of Friend Connect. They help more social networks blossom and more content being created and content will win. Freeing up my data is in their best interest, or rather making it available.

For Facebook, there is no business model. I am not sure if making the data available to me is something that they will do because the only thing they have is that data. They have no business relationship with me, or do not have some other use for that data other than mining it and at some time coming up with an idea.

So who would you entrust your data with? Nobody (aka something like Noserub) or Google, or Xing, or … .

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