To Facebook the answer must be no

A picture named chalmers.gifI am very familiar with the Friendfeed API, so when I saw the presentation today by Bret Taylor, who is now one of the leading guys at Facebook, it felt very familiar. They design clean and simple APIs. This one is no exception.

I would be playing with it right now except for two things:

1. My programming environment doesn’t have a JSON serializer or deserializer. I could write one, but I’m not going to, at least not this week. And next week we’ll be looking at something else. I wish they had provided an XML serialization for their data, if they had, I would have spent the rest of the week poking around so I could provide details here on Scripting News. Would have been an interesting report.

2. They are part of the push to reinvent OAuth. They say it’s simpler, but nothing could be simpler than the previous version, which I have already implemented.

This is the problem with corporate platforms and the standard bodies that help them achieve their goals. They throw out our investment with idea they’re making things easier. They’re smart people so I think they must know they’re not actually doing that. The developer base gets winnowed, which must be what they actually want.

Anyway, once you get past the political stuff, Bret and his guys implement a nice API. And Zuckerberg — what a character! I had never seen him speak before today. He’s honest, open, bares his soul in amazing ways. He’s like a young Bill Gates, who I knew when he was “Zuck’s" age — but without the guile. He lays it all out there.

Watching his presentation I was struck with an idea. Ballmer and Ozzie should find a way to get Zuck to buy Microsoft and they should reboot the company with Zuck as the leader. I know FB would never go for it, why should they, but what an interesting chemistry experiment that would be. Could Microsoft reboot with a BG workalike at the helm? It would make for a fascinating science fiction story. But I digress.

The actual Bill Gates figures in this story. In 1997, I had a phone talk with Bill G, about the subject that Mark Z addressed in today’s presentation. Bill had realized that the big thing missing from the web was an idea of identity. He wanted my help to figure this out and then make a presentation to the industry, but only after we did a lot of thinking. I remember meeting with one of his lieutennants in New Orleans later that year, but nothing came of the proposed collaboration, probably because I didn’t have any ideas about how to get everyone to line up behind Microsoft (mostly because I didn’t think it was a good idea).

So now we know what Zuckerberg’s megalomania is, and he’s brilliant, and hired the right guys (the FF team) to make it happen. But think about the role he’s cast himself in for a minute. Facebook is to be the identity system for the web. A company? That just can’t work. I can’t believe he doesn’t know that. Even Bill Gates didn’t have the audacity to propose that! smile

I’m sure their software will scale. It certainly is well-designed. But Facebook is a company and we just can’t go there. That’s about all I have to say right now. Probably will have more to say later.

PS: The OPML Editor is a distro of Frontier, which has been GPL’d for 5 years. I think it sucks that it has no JSON support. But it works for me, there’s no other environment that’s even remotely as rich, so I’m not switching. If you want to avoid missed opportunities like this in the future, get on board, fill in the gaps. We need JSON support, one of many things that are needed. If you can make it happen, you will be an official good person.



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