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A Perspective on the “Facebook is Opening Up” Story

I’m not trying to take credit for anything here, but I have kind of an interesting perspective on a story that’s been kind of big in the blogosphere in the last day or two – the “Facebook is Opening Up” story.

Yesterday morning, August 14, I was checking updates on Facebook, and I noticed something I thought was new: an option to “Subscribe to Notifications”:

Facebook Notifications Feed

People have long complained that Facebook isn’t “open” enough – it’s like a roach motel for your data. Stuff goes in, but there’s no way to get it out. Up until yesterday, the only RSS feed they offered was one for your Friends’ Status updates. That was it. But now, here was a new one – a feed for all of your “Notifications”, to see when people have accepted friend requests, etc. It’s not the whole “News Feed”, that lets you see everything your friends are doing, but it was a start.

So, I wrote a micropost using Twitter:

Is it just me, or is the RSS feed for “Your Notifications” in Facebook a new feature? Yay! Another RSS feed! A way out of the roach motel!

My active participation in the story ended there, but what happened afterwards is the interesting part of the story.

Rodfather follows me on Twitter, and blogged about my micropost. Dave Winer follows me on Twitter, so he saw my micropost. He’s long been an advocate of open web platforms, and warned us all against the dangers of lock-in. And this was news to him, too, so he started to investigate:

“We’re going to check it out, Josh.”

Dave discovered a couple of other ways that Facebook seemed to be opening up, and wrote about them on his blog, Scripting News. In that post, Dave aggregates other reactions to the news from around the blogosphere, including Mike Arrington writing about it on TechCrunch.

With the cumulative flow of attention that Dave and Mike can bring by writing about a story, it became part of the day’s news. It showed up on TechMeme. It got picked up by some of the blogs that cover Facebook news, like Inside Facebook (who points out that there’s still a long way to go for Facebook to be really “open”) and All Facebook.

Now, 24 hours later, the story has begun to fade. Dave has posted some reflections on what it all means. And there’s more exciting Facebook news to talk about today – the launch of their iPhone interface, which is, in fact, totally awesome. :-)

But it was very interesting to me to watch the evolution of this story from my micropost on Twitter, through the blogosphere, into full blown “news”, and it accentuated the usefulness of some of the tools I use every day. Twitter has become my tool for writing “microposts”, not just some mindless chat room toy. It’s part of set of tools that I use to communicate, and a big part of the “Complete Josh Bancroft Experience” you get from my “life stream” at www.joshbancroft.com. And my “ego” search feeds let me know when someone has written something about me or one of my sites. It’s like having a set of agents out there scouring the web for me, and letting me know when there’s something I should know about. That’s how I found Dave’s and Rodfather’s posts about my tweet, even before I read it in their feeds (I subscribe to both).

It’s things like this that make the web a “place” for me, and not just a collection of pages and information. I have real relationships with real people using the web, and a large part of my life takes place and is documented and shared in that place. That’s why my tagline for this blog is “The Web is my Platform and my Home.”

It’s also the reason I love my iPhone so much – because it allows me to plug in to and use these tools from anywhere, at any time. I can read and post to Twitter, read feeds in Google Reader and share anything interesting on my linkblog, see what the news is on Digg or TechMeme, and now, see what my friends on Facebook are doing. And the web experience is amazing – much better than other mobile web devices out there – and believe me, I’ve used almost all of them. The phone, iPod, email, and other features of the iPhone are really nice, but it’s the way it connects me to the web that makes it a really indispensable part of my life. It keeps me connected to the part of my life that takes place on the web. :-)

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2 thoughts on “A Perspective on the “Facebook is Opening Up” Story

  1. It’s funny… I saw this whole thing unfold just as you describe. I remember seeing your tweet in the morning and then checking out Facebook to take a looksee. Then soon after that, I saw Dave’s post and soon after that TechCrunch and the whole story accelerating.

    Pretty cool that something can spread like wildfire from one person in less than 140 characters in under 24 hours.

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