Facebook and Google have me convinced that they're among the most foresighted of companies in the social media space. Understanding the value and nature of prosumers, developers, structured content, open source, and broader tech-info convergence, the gargantuan yet speedy pair (+ quickly growing thirdborn Twitter) are jockeying to connect to more data, brains and meaningful partnerships. The result is fierce, healthy competition that's accelerating the pace and manner of social software platform releases.
Yesterday, Facebook announced a set of smart maneuvers clearly spurred on by Google's aggressively open strategy, including one called Open Graph (you can tell just by the name that this is a Zuckerberg baby) that will allow website builders everywhere to build Facebook-style pages, complete with many of the platform's bells and whistles - a very logical follow up to Google Friend Connect.
This morning, it's rumored that Google will announce the opening of their Wave servers for federation later in the day. Much like the release of Wave itself, the move, initially promised when Google announced Wave at I/O on May 28, comes very early in the Wave life cycle and allows any skilled-enough third party developers to use build custom websites, apps and back-ends using the platform.
What will they build? Based on my experience with Wave (Team Whizzlr took 6th place at a Wave Campout in August for our real-time massively multiplayer quiz game) I can say that Wave will be a remarkable tool for a fairly narrow set of uses, at least initially. It rocks as a platfrom for complex communication in a single place, real-time or longitudinal, making it ideal for 1) functional tasks like document collaboration (Google Docs +), focus grouping, surveying, invitation management, reddit-in-email (Kudos to the GTUG team that designed Blip Appeal - in-stream up/down voting for Wave Blips), dynamic web commenting that takes place simultaneously wherever Wave extensions are placed, new forms of blogging, etc, and also 2) fun activities like PMOGs, massive real-time quiz competitions, Fantasy Football clones run inside tyour email but also on another site, and other casual apps that currently sit atop the Facebook or iPhone platforms.
Put another way, the Wave platform uses HTML 5 cacheing to allow developers to shrink different web applications that we're accustomed to experiencing discretely, combine them in a single location, replicate Wave functionality WHEREVER they choose (thanks to Wave federation), and to mix and mingle all of these Wavelets. From a systems standpoint this looks like a clear path to MetaSystem Transition (MST)in the browser-enabled web app world:
Wikipedia - A metasystem transition is the emergence, through evolution, of a higher level of organization or control. Prime examples are the origin of life, the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms, and the emergence of symbolic thought. A metasystem is formed by the integration of a number of initially independent components, such as molecules, cells or individiduals, and the emergence of a system steering or controlling their interactions. As such, the collective of components becomes a new, goal-directed individual, capable of acting in a coordinated way. This metasystem is more complex, more intelligent, and more flexible in its actions than the initial component systems.This, I believe, is the way the Google Brass and Wave Team regard this new platform. It is their confidence in this model, mixed with excitement from a certain class of clammoring developers that recognize this long-term potential, plus their successful experiences with open-sourcing code (Android, Chrome, App Engine) that spurred them to announce the unpolished product in Mat and release Wave in Alpha this past summer. -- They certainyl got a lot of flack for it.
Whether or not this play bears fruit (I've been a believer from the start, mostly because I love what it could mean for the web), social media thinkers like Zuckerberg and Facebook's strategic team clearly must view Wave as an assault into their niche and future niches they'd like to dominate, not to mention a big play to convert developers to Google App Engine disciples. They have to take the possibility of a Wave Tsunami seriously, even if the likelihood is moderatley low.
So, is it a coincidence that Facebook has announced Open Graph and a slew of developer-focused goodies on the day prior to the Google Wave Federation? Probably not.
Is it a Open Graph a necessary (defensive + offensive) response to Google's maneuvering in the Wave space? Absolutely.
(That said, this emerging battle is at the same time component of a larger war between the two. How I would love to speak candidly with their strategists/futurists...)
Earlier this year I was openly wondering about Facebook's prosumer strategy. Since then I've seen Facebook make some truly brilliant moves, mostly in response to the growing Google and Twitter threat, that reveal just how much they do realize the fundamental importance of prosumers and developers (the two are very narrowly separated).
Thus, we've seen these companies move from launching products in Beta (Google is the pbvious trailblazer here), to Alpha and now to laying out 6-month roadmpas for developers and users (Facebook yesterday announced this), in just a few short years.
Make no mistake about it, fueled by Moore's Law, Zuckerberg's Second Law, and Exponential Data Proliferation, this behavior is a manifestation of convergent accelerating change. As such, expect other industries to follow suit (especially those dominated by massive players) as their operations are increasingly virtualized and they too can act in a more fluid manner. Newspapers, film studios, gaming companies, health care providers, and so forth, are all on the queue.
In the meantime, players like Google, Facebook and Twitter that strategize according to these theoretical acceleration and systems principles have a serious advantage. Do not underestimate the power of such simulations and nerds.