Closed is Still the Old Closed.
Kim Cameron, Microsoft's Chief Architect and the man behind Windows Cardspace (was infoCard), has shared his perspective the question of whether or not OpenID would make customers' lives better on social networks. There appears to be a general agreement that allowing a Single Sign On (SSO) service across properties (think "social networks", email services, and anything else that requires authentication / authorization) is good for the customer. There's no question that from customer's (or prospective customer's) point of view that idea of not having to create multiple accounts, usernames, passwords, etc has to be an appealing prospect. There doesn't seem to be much controversy here.
The controversial questions are: would the net effect be positive or negative for the online property owner if
a) they supported SSO and,
b) let competing services leverage "their data" - data generated by customers using while using their service.
The old way of thinking is the "walled garden" way of thinking. The logic goes something like this: Why would FaceBook, MySpace, x-socialnetwork or x-service make it easy for other properties or services to extract user profile information (i.e. "my data") from their service? Because openness is great? Yeah…right.
Kim's answer to these two questions are the right answers in my opinion. His view is that the net effect would be positive.
I'll quote myself from my 20 Thoughts on Attention post as to some of the reasons why I agree with Kim's point of view:
People care about the portability and security of their data.
Software and services that allow customers to take their data with them will do better than those that don't.
Letting customers share and take their data with them will be a competitive feature of successful online services.
New entrants into markets are more likely to allow customers to take their data with them than the existing market leaders.
Market leaders want to lock-in their customers by locking in their data.
Customers won't want their data locked-in.
Markets leaders will have to follow the trend of letting their customers take their data with them in order to grow their customer base.
Multiple online identities is the norm, not the exception. Attention data reading will need to account for multiple identities and contexts.
These are assertions, and I could spend ages providing data and examples as to why I believe in these, but the bottom line is this: the whole revolution we're witnessing where "consumer" properties are investing heavily in the provision API services that allow "their" customer's data to be retrieved and leveraged by potentially competing properties is driven by the acceptance of these assertions. Contrary to what Seth might think ("Closed is the New Open"), Closed is NOT the new Open, Closed is Still the Old Closed.
Companies providing these APIs "get" the future and they are benefiting in the here and now. They realize it is a two-way street and that the barriers to new customer acquisition will be lowered if
a) they interoperate with multiple ID systems (via something like OpenID)
b) allow customers to immediately leverage their existing data generated and residing on external properties / services
c) the data created and residing within their own service / property can be leverage elsewhere.
On point c), Facebook's latest "opening up" where the social network is allowing their
users customers to extract their Facebook updates is yet another incremental step in this 2-way direction.