November 9, 2007

Tim O’Reilly: it’s the data, stupid

Filed under: Web 2.0 — ubikcan @ 8:44 am

Tim O’Reilly invented the term Web 2.0 in 2005. On his blog recently he expressed extreme disappointment with Google’s OpenSocial and its potential as an “Internet operating system.”

O’Reilly has called open source a “paradigm shift” and pointed out that it is about more than the software on your desktop. Last year he pointed out that “most of the ‘killer apps’ of the Internet, applications run by hundreds of millions of people [including Google] run on Linux or FreeBSD.” The point he was making is that the operating system of the future will be neither Macintosh, Windows nor Linux but the Internet itself—the Internet Operating System.

Social networks such as MySpace and FaceBook are perhaps part of this in that they have been called “social network operating systems” but Google’s effort doesn’t please O’Reilly because you cannot share data between apps. Wrong, he says:

And it shows a fundamental failure to understand two key principles of Web 2.0:

  • It’s the data, stupid. (Formerly “Data is the Intel Inside”)
  • Small pieces loosely joined.

Let’s start with the first one. If all OpenSocial does is allow developers to port their applications more easily from one social network to another, that’s a big win for the developer, as they get to shop their application to users of every participating social network. But it provides little incremental value to the user, the real target. We don’t want to have the same application on multiple social networks. We want applications that can use data from multiple social networks.

And data mobility is a key to that. Syndication and mashups have been key elements of Web 2.0 — the ability to take data from one place, and re-use it in another. Heck, even Google’s core business depends on that ability — they take data from every site on the web (except those that ask them not to via robots.txt) and give it new utility by aggregating, indexing, and ranking it.

He ends by saying: “Set the data free! Allow social data mashups. That’s what will be the trump card in building the winning social networking platform.”

Whether he’s right about Google doesn’t matter in the short run and perhaps Google will modify their plans. But if anybody wants an Internet operating system he must be right.

PS: The Guardian has a similar effort in the UK called “free our data.”


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