My Life, The Universe and Everything

Truths I learn. Barriers I seek to break. Let me scream.

Name is the New Game?

Posted by themischord on October 31, 2007

Just today morning I was thinking, I’m not really a purist, and that I settle for things like Nike shoes, if now ipods to keep going. But here I read about Google’s OpenSocial and I’m screaming. It sounds all good and great and more ‘open’ then existing infrastructure but my contention is with the name. Why use the word ‘open’ when it is not? ‘Open’ is not the same as ‘free’ or ‘collaborate’. When these terms are used in such a loose sense, I feel enraged. That’s marketing, not altruism. The justification given is that Google plans to open source it someday. But for now, be happy with their API.

I’ll call myself God from today, coz I think that someday I’ll be omnipotent!

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7 Responses to “Name is the New Game?”

  1. dividebyzer0 said

    I think GOOG might have been speaking more to its “open” user experience than its codebase. While I agree “open” is not the same as “free” or “collaborative”, I’d also venture to say that it’s not perfectly congruent to “open source” either. To me, “open” refers to the freedom to extend, with “open source” being the most direct strategy to achieve that goal. I consider open platforms and APIs to be another valid strategy, providing the freedom to extend based on a standard architecture and offer a portable user experience. One could even argue that web services are open in that they “open” the data for use in mash-ups and the like, and web 2.0 apps are “open” in that they provide the user with the freedom to produce and distribute content.

    As for “open platforms and APIs,” let’s take the example of Java circa 2005. At that time, Java was open in the sense that it was supported by multiple vendors on heterogeneous environments. Though Sun didn’t provide fully open-source Java runtime initially, as an end-user, we still had a number of options. We could go with Sun’s JVM or choose implementations from IBM, Oracle and many others. We could run it on a Windows PC, Linux, AIX, or MacOS; on a mobile phone, set-top box, or toaster oven. Eventually, open-source projects like Blackdown Java and Apache Harmony came along to provide open-source implementations of the JVM, but the key was that the *spec* was open long before that. Anyone could take that spec and implement it under whatever license they choose, on whatever platform and for whatever purpose they choose. Thus, the “open” spec was decoupled from the primarily “closed” implementation. When Sun decided to open-source its JVM, it didn’t change the openness of Java itself. It only affected one vendor’s implementation of the spec.

    I see a similar thing happening with OpenSocial. While the details of the project are still a little lacking, I’d imagine that social networking sites act like “vendors.” So Orkut provides an OpenSocial container, and LinkedIn provides an OpenSocial container, etc. While these sites could theoretically open-source their particular implementation, the containers would be so tightly coupled with their proprietary infrastructure that they’d likely be of little use to anyone else (aside from spammers). That’s not to say a Drupal or WordPress couldn’t come along and provide an open-source implementation for their platforms, but it’s almost a completely separate concern at that point.

    All that being said, I do think that “OpenSocial” is a stupid name. “Social”, as a noun, was pretty much ruined by Microsoft’s “Welcome to the Social” campaign for its Zune. And “Open-[insert noun here]“ has been stale product naming pattern since the better part of 2003. The “Google Social API” would have been a much more elegant choice, and consistent with the “Google Blog API” and the “Google Maps API”, etc.

  2. dividebyzer0 said

    This is Cedric from WSUG, btw.

  3. Chaitanya said

    Your examples are apt and I’m sure that was more or less the idea behind using the word ‘open’. The terms ‘Free software’/’Free’ are tightly defined. And people usually respect the definition when using it. Although ‘open source’ has been defined, I find that the word ‘open’ is used more loosely. I am really just campaigning for a more fair use of terminology.

  4. dividebyzer0 said

    A fair point, but I think there’s also a virtue to keeping the usage of the “open” loose. To me, open simply means non-proprietary. In that sense, “open” spans anywhere from the Linux Kernel, to XML, to the electricity grid. Thus, “open” defines the relationship between a number of different non-proprietary concepts, speaking to the democracy of whatever subject its describing to allow for “open content”, “open source”, “open standards”, “open platform”, “open network”, etc.

  5. Rajan said

    our industry is etymologically dyslexic. IMHO both open and free are not most apt words for what they represent. It should probably have something connected with property rights with different degrees.

  6. dividebyzer0 said

    *ahem* http://opensocialapis.blogspot.com/2007/12/lets-get-this-shindig-started.html

  7. themischord said

    Ok, ok. I guess my contentions came out too quickly 😀

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