Friday, November 05, 2010

The open cloud just got a bit more closed

Something interesting happened today in the open cloud world: Google shot at Facebook...

It is no surprise that Google does not like Facebook much, considering one in five Facebook employees came from Google and that Google is trying to catch up on the social war (no results so far, but I am told the man in charge is Vic Gundotra, so it is just a matter of time).

The war here is on a different turf, and it is close to home for me: the open cloud. Google has tried to portray itself as an open cloud, one that does not lock in your data (since my data is my data, and I want to take it with me wherever I go). The Data Liberation Front is at the forefront of the Google marketing. Their motto is "Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google's products. Our team's goal is to make it easier to move data in and out". I like it. And I used it a couple of times. It is not just marketing. It is real stuff.

On the other side of the spectrum? Facebook. They built their entire business around collecting your data, and they definitely do not want you to take it with you. Or, worst, share it with other clouds. They have made some openings lately but it is probably not even close to what they could do.

What happened today? Google changed a tiny paragraph of the Terms of Service for the Contacts API:
5.8. Google supports data portability. By accessing Content through the Contacts Data API or Portable Contacts API for use in your service or application, you are agreeing to enable your users to export their contacts data to other services or applications of their choice in a way that’s substantially as fast and easy as exporting such data from Google Contacts, subject to applicable laws.
Looks small, right? Just contacts, after all. It is one of the many data types out there... Well, it is THE data type. Friends are in the address book. Social starts in the address book. Calls, messages, everything starts there. Believe me, when it comes to synchronization, the address book is king.

How do you read this? Well, "if you suck data out of of cloud, you must allow us to suck data out of your cloud". Pretty simple.

If you are naive, the move from Google reads "we want an open cloud, we are open, you should be open too!". If you are cynical, it reads "we want to keep our data for ourselves, forget the BS about data liberation, we were joking... It works only if it does not harm our business, and Facebook is. Our cloud is as open as the other ones out there".

Pretty scary. The open cloud just got a bit more closed.