Facebook took over the Gillmor Gang this week like it threatens to do the Web. Danny Sullivan represented those who fear the unadulterated market power of the social giant. He pressed FriendFeed co-founder and now Facebook platform chief Bret Taylor on the Pandora and Microsoft deals, which push user data to “partners” without user opt in. Taylor said these were carefully defined contracts that respected user privacy.
Robert Scoble represented the happy user, listening to friend-seeded recommendations on Pandora. Andrew Keen represented his own peculiar subset of clueless netizens, entertaining us with a stylized version of Facebook’s onboarding interrogation: Who are you? What’s your favorite cereal? What constitutes an invasion of privacy? Taylor batted the gambit away, only to have Sullivan loop around to it later and give Keen’s schtick more credibility than I thought possible.
All in all, a fun exercise that stayed away from the shrill quality of the underlying debate. It’s always amusing to see Google evangelists look with horror at Facebook exercising its social muscle, and Microsoft engineer Dare Obasanjo backing the Revenge of the Semantic Web as propelled by Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol. Much has been made of the varying degrees of authenticity of these open standards gurus turned partisans, but David Recordon (now of Facebook) won the round with his “Sure, some things Facebook launched are more “open” than others” setup.
All of which suggests that no one and everyone is to be believed. Interestingly, like the debate over the iPad (bad, bad, bad… I’ll take two), the less “open” others Recordon mentions are being debated on pages that sport shiny new Facebook Like buttons at the top. And even as the partisans mount and unmount their soapboxes, others are busy taking ground by minimizing the differences between the dominant strategies. Already Twitter engineers are exploring building annotations on top of the Facebook structures, while PubSubHubbub moves toward JSON support. Like sausage making, the ugly process may actually be working.