Facebook Connect AKA Hailstorm 2.0

December 1, 2008

Have you seen this?

Let me quote the highlights for you:

If the initial development race of Web 2.0 centered around “building a better social network” then the next phase will certainly focus on extending the reach of existing social networks beyond their current domain. How? By using the elements of the social graph as the foundational components that will drive the social Web. Where we once focused on going to a destination – particular social network to participate – we will now begin to carry components of social networks along with us, wherever we go. In the next phase of the social Web, every site will become social.

Agreed. That’s been the vision and promise of much of my work for more than a year.

Here’s the scary part

Facebook Connect proposes to make data and friend connections currently held within the walled garden of Facebook accessible to other services. This has two distinct benefits, one for the sites and one for Facebook.

For the participating sites, Facebook Connect provides more social functionality without a great deal of additional development. A new user can opt to share the profile information in Facebook instead of developing a new account. This gives the user access to the site and its services without the tedium of developing yet another profile on yet another site. In addition, users can use the relationship information in Facebook to connect to their friends on the other services. In short, it makes the new partner site an extension of Facebook.

Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.

The most scary part of this, is that while Facebook is quietly and methodically building out this vision with massive partners, the standards community is busy squabbling about naming the open alternative.

Is it Data Portability? Is the Open Web? is it Open Social? Is it Federated Identity?

At the start of this year one would have thought that the open standards movement got a huge boost by the massive explosion of the DataPortability project. It’s set of high profile endorsements catapulted the geeky standards conversation into the mainstream consciousness and helped provide a rallying cry for the community to embrace.

Instead of embracing it, though, many of the leaders in the community decided to squabble about form and style. They argued about the name, about the organization, about the merits of the people involved – on and on it went.

Instead of embracing the opportunity, they squandered it by trying to coin new phrases, new organizations and new initiatives.

The result is a series of mixed messages that have largely diluted the value of DataPortability’s promise this year. The promise of making the conversation tangible for the mainstream – the executives who are now partnering with FaceBook.

Will we let this continue into 2009? Will we continue to allow our egos to get in the way of mounting a real alternative to Hailstorm 2.0? Are we more interested in the theater of it, the cool kids vs. the real world or will we be able to reach the mainstream once again and help them to understand that entire social web is at stake?

I’ve not lost hope. There are countless reasons why Facebook and it’s Hailstorm 2.0 are not inevitable.

I have, however, lost a lot of respect for a lot of people I once admired. Maybe they can clean up their act and we can work together once again in the new year.

I put a call out to all those who are interested – technologists, early adopters, bloggers (especially bloggers), conference organizers, conference speakers, media executives – let’s get our act together and take this party to the next level.

I, for one, am looking forward to it.

45 Responses to “Facebook Connect AKA Hailstorm 2.0”


  1. I didn’t see you non-ego filled self at the Interent Identity Workshop http://iiw.idcommons.net where a tonne of work went on to actually getting things done to build the alternative to Passport/Hailstorm 2.0/Closed identity everything and has been ongoing for the past 3 years – and the 2 years before that in community meetings and on mailing lists.

    Identity Commons invited DP to participate and join as a publicity outreach effort with the ongoing technical initiatives there. You didn’t. http://www.idcommons.net


  2. conferences, bloggers and media won’t change a thing. quit kidding yourself.

    Don’t worry, this will likely fail on its own.

    But if you do want to hold influence: Be one of the parties at the negotiation table. Otherwise, its literally not your business.

  3. Chris Saad Says:

    @Kaliya Actually I think a number of DP participants were there, particularly Daniela from the Steering group. I’m in Australia at the moment.

    However the point I am making is not about the work (which is extensive) but the commercialization and mainstream accessibility (which is not).

    DP was and still is an opportunity to cross that bridge.

    @Andy I’m not sure when you were last involved in such matters, but believe me, Conferences, bloggers and media make a huge difference.

    Also, I run the product strategy for a company that has 550,000 registered sites. It quite literally is my business.

    But beyond that, I am a citizen of the web – an open, free and non-proprietary platform inside which all ideas can thrive. So it is most definitely my business on that level too.

    Your as well.

  4. Ming Yeow Says:

    Several of my friends run the fastest growing social sites around. They are not interested in open standards nor facebook, but interested in growing their business.

    They grew their business on the back of FB platform, and they are either diversifying outwards, or building a standalone brand.

    Now, FB Connect sometimes scares the fuck out of them, with one of them highlighting to a little mentioned ruling: FB requires their “Connect” to be the most prominent authentication method on the site. See http://r5.sharedcopy.com/544fm

    Given that most sites can only have at most 2 logins (their own + one other), it is clear that any other login mechanism is going to be stifled.

    Now, they are going to implement Connect anyway, such is FB’s network power (Hey, my mum is on FB). But they will jump at the first sign of a feasible alternative.

    Summarizing, owners do want to get their independence from FB, but it is up to us to give them a solid alternative. Hence, Chris’s point is more valid than ever

  5. Chris Saad Says:

    @Ming I’m glad someone gets it. Seems like all too few do – even those who follow my blog or twitter for some reason.

    Your last point is the subject of my thinking lately – I completely agree.

    The only silver lining to Facebook Connect is that it will clarify the use cases and crystallize the fear that site owners can and must feel about Facebook’s strategy.

    Given that, a truly open alternative will be able to draft behind and succeed in the inevitable triumph of open vs. closed.

    In the mean time though, many will continue to play nice with Facebook’s representatives giving them a voice without holding them accountable for what their doing.

    I can remember countless times when O’reilly and others have given them a voice on stage without offering a cohesive counter-voice. The blog post I quoted from RWW does not seem to mention the open alternatives. Even when ‘open advocates’ get on stage with Facebook they seem all but afraid to call bullshit.

  6. Frank Says:

    The problem with this scenario is trust. Can I trust facebook to play nice with me if I vest my social network with them? The answer is NO. They have made a long-term practice of deleting people’s profiles without explanation or logic. I’d rather have separate IDs elsewhere and use widgets or aggregators etc. Besides many of the widgets are wonky and don’t work half the time so why get so excited that this is possible. The issue of privacy is also not considered. Being facebook friends with me doesn’t give you the right to take my info., even my name or picture, outside of facebook for others to access or see.

  7. Alex Korth Says:

    First of all, O’Reilly was right when he said that the power is with those having the content/users. That’s what we see the big players going for. Their strategies are clear.
    On the other hands, there are approaches from the corner of the Web of Data namely the Linking Open Data project recommended by the W3C. The two interesting aspects about this great initiative are
    a) it is designed analogue to the principles the Web that we know is designed (decentralized, linked, etc.)
    b) it is fast growing nevertheless there are big players watching. maybe the big players contribute somewhen, maybe not. the market will decide.
    What all of us evangelize could be seen as the Web of Identities, but names don’t matter. In my opinion it can work exactly the way Linking Open Data works: bottom-up approaches like DP, DiSo etc. will emerge to a net of open identity providers with an agreed interface, set protocols and exchange formats. Platform can easily dock as they do now to Connect. Somewhen everybody has chosen one provider for his ID, social graph and assets. When this solution makes sense, the whole market will adopt, including the big players, which will support the interface, set protocols and exchange formats by themselves. They are already opening bit by bit.
    Cheers from Berlin,
    Alex

  8. Alex Korth Says:

    On thing I want to add reading Franks contribution:
    I attended the ICT event in Lyon last week. ICT is part of FP7, the 7th framework programme to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry and is funded by the EU member states with € 9.1 billion.
    Three very present terms where PRIVACY, SECURITY and TRUST. Given these three, the markets will manage lots of issues. Even tho the Web of Identities was not in sight for the participants (yes, we are early birds), the Web of Data and the Web of Services were.

  9. dave mcclure Says:

    resistance is futile! i wholeheartedly the suffocating embrace of our slightly geeky future social networking overlords… ;)

    seriously: i have no problem with Facebook advancing a proprietary standard. hopefully it forces useful competition. if not, let’s at least hope it works as promised.

    Windows kinda sucks too, but neither Apple nor Windows were open standards. X-windows never really caught on, and Xerox PARC was mired in its own academic morass.

    so here’s to those out to make a fast buck. emphasis on *FAST*.


  10. @davemcclure

    Any conflict of interest in your post given the amount of activities you are doing around facebook?

  11. Alien Tom Says:

    I spent the whole 4 day weekend logging into and creating profiles on the major social sites, this data portability project is of utmost importance. I would like to see my WordPress site be upgraded to allow me to log into any site with my info. Rubbish.

  12. Alex Korth Says:

    @Alien Tom: you should check the NoseRub (http://noserub.com) project doing exactly that. Here’s a nice screencast of Pixelsebi covering DiSos and NoseRub: http://pixelsebi.com/2008-11-29/screencast-distributed-social-networking/

    p.s.: me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/4l3x


  13. [...] Facebook Connect AKA Hailstorm 2.0 [...]

  14. dave mcclure Says:

    @Piero: sure, there are probably massive conflicts of interest… but at the moment, i’m not getting paid by them. that might change in the future, but regardless i’m not a paid shill. i think their shit rocks, and i work with them (usually for NO money) because i believe that.

    they’ve been a [very small] sponsor of a conference i did last year, but so has almost every other platform vendor of note (including Google & MySpace).

    i’m also pretty supportive of MySpace & Google’s efforts as well, and i’m even supportive of OpenID — *IF* their UX doesn’t completely suck ass… which for the most part, it has to date (& i sincerely hope that changes).

    in any case, my main point is that competition is good — and proprietary standards are simply another competitive option. FOR SURE i do NOT support open standards for open standards sake… historically, they tend to be slow-moving, and not particularly innovative. that said, there is certainly a place at the table for standards & the W3C & Mozilla (along with a few others) have shown that to be a community benefit.

    but i’m agnostic — may the best solution win, whether it be proprietary or open.

    but hurry the fuck up, PLEASE.


  15. [...] Chris Saad er, som citatet ovenfor angiver, ikke ligefrem begrejstret for Facebook Connect. Og hvorfor ikke? Facebook giver jo websites mulighed for at tappe af FBs 120 mio. brugere, og brugerne får på nem og elegant måde et Single-Sign-On (SSO) på nettet. Så er alle vel glade, ikke? [...]

  16. william Says:

    Hail to the Thieves

    So interesting that a short time ago Microsoft (A closed source company) wanted to push forward a standard (Hell Storm) that would have give users the ability to have one log in that worked for many sites. At the time many in the tech and development community saw this as just another Microsoft Land Grab for our Identity and our Content. Many people saw Passport as a Microsoft effort to finally gain control of the internet by becoming the standard for digital identity.

    Today we have no less than 3 closed source companies in a race to become the “Standard” for holding or Identity and therefore having access to the content that we read and the content that we creates.

    All of this at a time when there are many Open Source standards that could be used (Openid is just one that comes to mind) that if properly deployed would do the right thing by putting the user/member in charge of their log in as well as their relationships across many sites.

    Have we forgotten the lesson of the not so distance past ?

    Why do we not see a problem with the big 3 trying to become the proprietary standard in this very important area ?

    Why do developers especially Open Source developers continue to build and extend applications for closed source companies that under mind open source standards and ideals ?

    Why do users continue to view giving control of their identity and content to these companies as a win, when in fact the win is clearly on the side of the company that you have allowed to take control of your identity and to generate value and revenue from your content. In return for our compliance we do not even have a right to take our identity and our content where we want.

  17. Chris Saad Says:

    William that’s exactly my point in the post – well said :)

  18. Dave McClure Says:

    @william: “why” do *you* want to make my decision for me?

    why not let 3 competing “closed source” standards and 1 “open source” standards go after solutions, and see what works best?

    i have no problem with you folks proposing / going after / coming up with open standard solutions… i just have a problem with you guys shitting on all the commercial efforts on your way to OpenID Utopia.

    please get off your soapbox, build something, and let’s see what the market adopts.

    or in other words: less talk, more product (& more customers).


  19. [...] (MySpace’s PR person should have been fired long ago for being so bluntly left out), there is growing concern in that community for the future relevance of an open, rather than a commercially controlled, [...]


  20. [...] Chris Saad’s post on facebook connect SixApart press release about the end of Pownce [...]

  21. Dave Kerpen Says:

    Facebook is laughing at this conversation all the way to the bank.


  22. [...] This method of thinking is outlined (but by no means wholly accepted) in Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. It is fully hyped in Wikinomics. And it can be found in every recess of the blogosphere. [...]

  23. Frank Says:

    The Social networking websites or Business Social networking blogs are increasingly changing and developing the Presence of the young people into the society, thats a great exemplo have people like you working for a better community! I hope that would help for a better future


  24. [...] Chris Saad writes, “Facebook [essentially] is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the [...]

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  26. [...] “Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.” Chris Saad, co-founder of the Data Portability project wrote on his blog. [...]


  27. [...] “Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.” Chris Saad, co-founder of the Data Portability project wrote on his blog. [...]


  28. [...] “Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.” Chris Saad, co-founder of the Data Portability project wrote on his blog. [...]


  29. [...] “Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.” Chris Saad, co-founder of the Data Portability project wrote on his blog. [...]


  30. [...] “Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform.” Chris Saad, co-founder of the Data Portability project wrote on his blog. [...]


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  33. I also run the product strategy but for a company that has 500 registered sites. It quite literally is my business.

  34. Lee Bezos Says:

    Facebook connect is something that impacted my business quite a bit. This was a very informative post.


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  36. I never face any problem with Facebook advancing a proprietary.


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  43. […] I spoke with Plaxo’s John McCrea (a proponent of the Open Stack) earlier this week about Facebook Connect and what it means for OpenID’s future. He made an interesting prediction — that 2009 will be the year of the Identity Wars. Chris Saad, another outspoken proponent of the Open Stack, feels the same way. […]


  44. […] "Essentially, Facebook is trying to replace all logins with their own, and control the creation, distribution and application of the social graph using their proprietary platform," Chris Saad, open source advocate and co-founder of the Data Portability project, writes on his blog. […]


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