Opening Up The Data

Via the Are there 100,000 people for open data in Facebook? group on Facebook I found the statement that “We already know that Mark Zuckerberg has committed Facebook to opening up its data“. The group description links to an article in Macworld entitled “Web 2.0: Facebook wants to make members’ data portable” which begins with the announcement that “Facebook wants to make the data its members enter into the social network’s profiles portable, so that they can move that data to other online services if they want, the company’s CEO said Wednesday“.

Opening Up Development

Back in March 2007 I wrote a post on Dapper – Web Mashup Development For All? which described how the Dapper Web-based can open up the development of Web-based applications. I recently discovered a FireFox extension called DapperFox which makes Dapper even easier to use.

More importantly I have just been alerted to a Dapper post which announces that the Dapper Facebook AppMaker Now Open to Public: “What this will allow you to do is take ANY Dapp and turn it into a fully independent Facebook app. Use your own header, footer, background styling — really make it yours — and with absolutely no programming“.

So now, it would appear, development of Facebook applications is opening up to, perhaps not the masses, but those with lightweight development skills or interests. And by taking data from public Web sites and making it available within a Facebook environment, you are not locking the data within Facebook, as the original data source is still available on the Web.

Enhancing Its Services

Facebook started off as a social networking environment. But as I wrote on 9 November Facebook now allows entries for organisations to be created within Facebook. And now, less than a month later, the Open University’s Facebook page shows that the organisation now has over 2,000 fans and what appears to be the start of a thriving discussion forum.

Phil Bradley recently provided a series of posts on a JIBS conference on Is library 2.0 a trivial pursuit?. One of his post described a talk on The British Library in Facebook. The British Library (BL) “sees the use of social networking sites as a way of getting out there, providing information in situations and places where people are”. They have set up a number of Facebook groups, including groups which support the exhibitions they are running and the BL’s business and SME support services, as well as a BL organisational pages and groups for internal use.

Conclusions

It’s here; it’s popular; it’s still developing; authoring tools are being developed; it’s getting more open. Can any organisation seriously argue that they shouldn’t be considering how Facebook can be used to support organisational aims? And shouldn’t those involved in IT development also be looking at what can be learnt from Facebook’s successes? And shouldn’t the Semantic Web purists acknowledge the views which Paul Miller sums up with his comment on the Nodalities blog:

The noble vision of the Semantic Web is just that; a noble – and long term – vision. The years of seeking perfect answers to perfectly formed questions – a practice of which too many in the Semantic Web community are guilty – have not helped to move us nearly as far forward as we should have come. The over-reliance upon complex and impractically all-encompassing ontologies have bogged us down, and invited ridicule.”