Today Google discontinued their Social Graph API. For those who didn’t know it, you gave it an url that represented someone (my website, my twitter or facebook account) and it returned all your other URLs (my blog, last.fm, openid, youtube, among many other services) and also URLs for all my friends from all those social networks.
Social Graph API was a way of getting all your presences in the internet and also your friends. This was important for instance, when you signed up for a new account on a yet-another-social-network, it could import all your friends without asking for any permission. Games could suggest your friends as opponents. And services could get updates from all your accounts.
Technically, this was achieved using XFN (a micro-format), FOAF and a few other technologies. This is still possible to do today, but the service provided by Google had the advantage of using their super-duper-make-everything-fast-cache and actually query several URLs in useful time.
But I do understand why Social Graph API didn’t caught up. In 2007, everyone had 1001 profiles. Their photos were on Flickr, videos on Youtube, blogs on wordpresses/blogspot, microblogs on twitter, and so on. Social networks were popping up for everything thing you could think of.
And then Facebook became popular. In one page, you can have your photos, status updates, videos, games you play, and so on. And with a good permission system. I can share some photos with my friends, but not the world. This gave control to the user, and removed information from the public knowledge, and therefore from Social Graph API’s reach.
Users want control over what they share, and I am totally on board with that1. I am just sorry that all services are being provided by one company and it increases our dependency on Facebook. I wonder how long will it take for someone to improve the experience and create a new exodus from Facebook to a new platform with other advantages. An no, it won’t be Google Plus.
1Although one should never forget that your trusted contacts can share what you did with the world.