[OpenID] A lesson from history for Facebook

Chris Messina chris.messina at gmail.com
Thu Apr 16 07:04:13 UTC 2009

On Wed, Apr 15, 2009 at 6:23 PM, Santosh Rajan <santrajan at gmail.com> wrote:

> ...
> Apple had a choice to make. Open up Mac OS to all hardware vendors or stay
> proprietary. They chose to stay proprietary, keeping the price of a Mac
> higher than a equivalent PC. Apple could have really trashed Microsoft if
> they had opened up Mac OS to the hardware vendors back then.
> ...
> Facebook is pretty much faced with the same situation as Apple back then,
> as
> far as their Facebook Connect is concerned. They can choose to Open it up
> by
> supporting OpenID or stay proprietary. Only this time they have a bunch of
> contenders to deal with instead of just Microsoft.
> Of cource the circumstances for Facebook are different today. But the
> underlying strategic mistake made by Apple cannot be missed. I hope
> Facebook
> learns from the past, and chooses to support OpenID as an OP, before it is
> too late.

You can summarize this point with the Eric Schmidt's admonishment "not to
bet against the internet" — similar to "open always wins out in the end".

That said, I think Apple lost their way because they didn't have Steve Jobs'
guidance to capitalize on their opportunity.

I think that your comparison between Facebook and Apple is mostly seductive,
but also instructive. Apple makes much more usable systems TODAY, so that,
on the whole, if you live within the Apple world (as I tend to) you have
fewer hardware frustrations and incompatibilities because Apple products
work with Apple products. And you never even think twice about it.

The experience is simply better for the consumer.

The same is true for Facebook Connect today, so I think you ought be
cautious making that analogy when OpenID as a technology — and as a
community — has so far to go to actually offer real-world solutions that see
wide-spread adoption AND are well designed AND are interoperable. We don't
need OpenID to do more, per se — we need to clarify the vision for what
OpenID CAN and SHOULD do... and then work to get the technology necessary
architected, built, deployed and tested.

Without a stronger foundation (big and little "f"'s), OpenID will not become
what you seem to want it to become. Nor can we just plow forward taking
shortcuts that run roughshod over the progress that we've made so far.
Things are getting better through concerted effort, not through words alone.
Doing, in our case, is far more effective than dictating.

In general, I've yet to see a compelling example of exemplary,
user-friendly, original design from an open source community; that's not to
say that it isn't possible — it just hasn't happened yet. Openness alone
doesn't intrinsically make anything better or more usable, but I'd like to
see if we could correct that in the OpenID community.

Chris Messina
Citizen-Participant &
 Open Web Advocate

factoryjoe.com // diso-project.org // vidoop.com
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