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OpenSocial and Facebook Platform side by side comparison

iPalmSurely, you’ve heard about Google’s new OpenSocial platform.

I believe this is indeed a very significant step forward, especially taking into account the launch partners who are already on board.

Naturally, a lot of comparisons between OpenSocial and Facebook Platform have been made, mostly having to do with the fact that Facebook Platform is closed and proprietary, and OpenSocial is open and standards based. While I couldn’t agree more, after reading the OpenSocial documentation carefully, I couldn’t help but notice that there’re several Facebook Platform features missing from OpenSocial – mainly having to do with app management, permissions etc. To try and make some sense of the differences, I created the following table, comparing the two platforms side by side.

Facebook Platform Open Social Notes
Universal + Facebook apps work only on Facebook, OpenSocial apps (will) work everywhere
Standards based + Facebook – FQL, FBML, OpenSocial – JavaScript, HTML
Extensible + OpenSocial allows certain containers to expose additional data to apps etc.
Publish user stories + + Both platforms allow posting user stories or activities
Get friends list + +
Get user info + +
Persistence + OpenSocial provides an integrated solution for storing app data
Send app notifications + Facebook allows apps to communicate with users via email
Send app requests + Facebook apps can send requests and invitations to non-app users
Spam controls + Facebook monitors and allows users to report spammy apps and takes appropriate actions
App permissions and privacy settings + Facebook provides fine-tuning of each app’s permissions and privacy settings
Access to events, groups, photos, marketplace +
Application directory +
App added notifications + Facebook notifies user’s friends when they add new apps
Additional container hooks + Facebook apps have icons on profile page, left sidebar links etc.
Dynamic profile box + Facebook uses push model with which user’s profile box needs to be explicitly updated by the app. OpenSocial allows fully dynamic profile boxes
Image caching + Facebook caches all 3rd party images. Pros – higher availability, cons – difficult to create dynamic images

Conclusions – first, OpenSocial is only at its 0.5 version, and I’m sure it will be significantly improved and extended in the near future. With that said, looking at the features side-by-side today, it’s clear that OpenSocial currently provides two basic functionalities – containment and access to container data. It doesn’t provide any of the higher level functionality present on Facebook – things like application directory, application permissions and privacy settings, spam controls, additional application links and hooks, ‘app addded’ news posts etc. Each container site will need to implement most if not all these functionalities independently, as they obviously address pretty common needs and problems. This also means that within each container there will be slightly (or maybe even significantly) different app virality, discovery and distribution dynamics.


One thing is for sure – OpenSocial makes developers’ life much much easier. Unlike Facebook platform, OpenSocial doesn’t require learning new markup and query languages, and the specific platform quirks associated with many of the proprietary mechanisms. Also, with OpenSocial developers won’t have to work hard to figure out how to easily push updates to user profiles, or how to include dynamic images or initially interactive flash elements into the profile box. On the other hand, many of these restrictions were introduced by Facebook for a good reasons (at least in their opinion), and it would be really interesting to see how removing these restrictions will affect end-users’ experience.

I’m personally really looking forward to seeing what effect OpenSocial will have on the Web and how Google’s recent move will affect Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and other big players, and what will be their response. Exciting times!

10 Responses to “OpenSocial and Facebook Platform side by side comparison”

  1. Open Social How To » OpenSocial and Facebook Platform side by side comparison Says:

    […] Original post by Iosart Blog […]

  2. Owen Says:

    Great summary Alex. I’m looking forward to checking out Open Social.

  3. Neyric Says:

    Thanks for this great comparison !
    Many of your ‘minus’ marks for OpenSocial are easily handled using RSS.
    I hope they will include it in the next versions of the standard.

  4. Social Blogger Says:

    It will be nice when Google actually releases the Data APIs! (Currently, only the client APIs are available.)

  5. Zurück und irgendwie doch nicht Says:

    […] Googles neuen Streichen, u.a. dem der OpenSocial Platform habt ihr sicher schon gehört, hier findet ihr einen Vergleich zwischen OpenSocial und der FaceBook […]

  6. chaoskaizer Says:

    Good analysis and comparison, the open social term is overatted its gain weight because its a products from Google. Google is the new w3c for making thing “standard” ofcourse others will follow, coz google is god now.

    forget about bush “the google”.

    anyway I thing this is an extend of the recent release of google base/widget ads and they decide to make it “open social”.I like the CDN part it will save the developer lots of thing. Just hope they dont introduce property language in the near future.

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