When we launched the beta of Pulse in August, we made a strategic bet — that the market was ripe for an “open social network” (rather than yet another “walled garden”).
The idea was that we could play a role in the emergence of a social web that was as open as the web itself. We embraced and implemented open standards, including OpenID and microformats. We let users bring in content from the sites they were already using, and we let them take their data out through a variety of mechanisms, including RSS and a lifestreaming widget. We advocated for openness and for user-ownership of data by co-authoring a “Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web.” And, when Google led the charge for enabling write-once-run-anywhere apps in its OpenSocial API initiative, we did not hesitate; in fact we jumped on board with such enthusiasm that we managed to be the first site with live OpenSocial apps running on it. (Go, Joseph!)
Along the way, Joseph and I were oftened asked, “Open sounds great for users, but will the social networks really open up? Isn’t it bad for business?”
Well, the early results are in, and I’d have to say that our experience so far would strongly suggest that “open” is good for business. Here’s a chart that shows trends for growth of Pulse’s “social graph.” Of particular note: the inflection point in the curve coincides with the public revelation of the Google OpenSocial initiative and our role in it. From that moment forward, we have experienced a surge so strong that we had to expedite a hardware order, and shift focus temporarily from new features to scalability.
In a single day, the rate of wiring up the Pulse social graph jumped by an order-of-magnitude. Imagine what will happen when we begin to market this to all the users of the traditional Plaxo “networked address book” service!
Of course, the hard work of enabling a truly Open Social Web is just beginning. There’s still much to do to deliver on the promise of the OpenSocial API. We are pleased to be working side-by-side with Google, MySpace, and the many others involved in the initiative to make sure OpenSocial is a secure web-wide platform. In addition, we have begun to tackle in earnest the next big challenge of open — Friends List Portability. Stay tuned for some exciting developments on that front.
VP of Marketing