back to article Open API lessons for LinkedIn and Facebook

One of the cardinal rules of open source is reciprocity: you can use my open-source code under the same terms that it was given to me. But as open source shifts to open APIs, "open" is increasingly a one-way street. As one major case in point, LinkedIn likes to tout its open API to developers, but apparently only developers of …


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  1. GrumpyJoe

    But "open source"

    means you have you know, the SOURCE? Nobody can take that away from you. A 'cloud hosted' API on the other hand - you own nothing, it's completely at the mercy of the hoster/developer.

    Similar to me not really wanting to use Google for many things (contacts/calendar/mapping) - this is a partial reason for that - I CANNOT depend on a third party to be doing things in my best interest.

    Give me the SOURCE of your API and I can implement it anywhere I fancy (see Mozilla Sync for instance, last I looked you COULD use their servers or host your own with open source software).

    I'm not asking out of some sense of privilege, but what's the point of building a product or service that someone else can pull the plug on at any given time?

  2. Anonymous Coward
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    GPL from the FAQ

    "A company is running a modified version of a GPL'ed program on a web site. Does the GPL say they must release their modified sources?

    The GPL permits anyone to make a modified version and use it without ever distributing it to others. What this company is doing is a special case of that. Therefore, the company does not have to release the modified sources.

    It is essential for people to have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately, without ever publishing those modifications."

    Open only has to be Open if the source code is release.

    This article is odd since it only deals with one person's quote, and doesn't really propound anything. Facebook could boot off Zynga if it wanted to, so there's a situation where one company dictates it's API and could harm others, but the flip side of the coin is that if Facebook were to release all of their data, then no one would visit, as a small developer could strip out the bumpf and produce a "pure" Facebook experience thereby destroying the value of the company. (and probably still clean up by selling the contact details). Asking for an open API without restrictions is like asking for the world to throw away intellectual property.

  3. Eddie Edwards

    Oh FFS

    "Open" does not mean "we want competitors to steal all our data which cost us money to gather so they can compete on an unbalanced playing field and eventually beat us thanks to having lower costs".

    The GPL exists *explicitly* to prevent this from happening with source code, and it does so by requiring reciprocal responsibility from the users of the open stuff.

    So yeah maybe if you can define "open" to mean there is some reciprocal responsibility from the users of the data, you'd be fine. Which is *exactly* how LinkedIn and Facebook are doing it, and exactly the point Asay is completely failing to grasp with this nonsense rant about the "principle of openness". Wake me up when he has a workable GPL-style API license that takes all this into account. Otherwise, he can STFU with his "lessons" for companies that actually have successful products and real competitors and pretty damned open (within reason) APIs.

  4. jr424242

    Freetard for a day

    Is this an April Fools post gone wrong?

  5. Steve Knox

    All you need to know about social networking sites

    You're not the customer. You're the product.

    All of the various social networks' behaviors described in the article derive logically from this simple concept.

  6. SolarCatcher

    Open source does not require reciprocity

    Matt says "one of the cardinal rules of open source is reciprocity: you can use my open-source code under the same terms that it was given to me." But this is simply not true. There are many - and popular open source licenses which do not expect reciprocity: BSD, MIT, Apache... Their copyrightholders basically say "do whatever you want with this software" and that includes changing and extending it and NOT making these changes accessible to others.

  7. Ramazan

    Re: one of rules of open source is reciprocity

    You are confusing Open Source with Free Software here

  8. Ramazan

    Open API

    Similarly to Free s/w vs Open Source, there might be such a thing as Free API, which is free to be used by everyone, even by your direct competitors. Open API doesn't imply freedom of use. It just means that you can get a technical specification for the API, probably with declarations/headers/libraries.

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