OpenSocial v. ICA: Why one flies and the other falters

Since the announcement of Google’s OpenSocial project I’ve been following the developments with great interest to see the adoption flow. I think Social Media and the Social Web are here to stay. The development of a standard platform for Social Media projects at this relatively early stage of the game indicates that major companies are hedging on long term growth.

The OpenSocial Foundation was announced today.

The basic notion behind OpenSocial was/is to create a common API to make it easy to create and host applications on the web. Evolving out of this important idea is a non-profit organization that Social Web’s heavyweights have gotten behind. MySpace, Yahoo! (owner of flickr, Upcoming.org and Del.icio.us) are part of the holy trinity.

Wouldn’t it be great if the same kind of standardization and cooperation were available within the domain industry?

There’s been a lot of talk about transparency from many corners of the domain industry but no one is taking the lead yet. Is there really room in an industry that is often thought of as being filled with mavericks? Does the continued onslaught of threats to domain monetization and ownership mean that companies will be more willing to work with each other going forward? I ask because we’re a very small industry. We’re growing all the time, of course, but we’re tiny in many ways. We’re also very incestuous. I can think of a half dozen associates who have moved from one domain related company to another in just the last few months. So knowledge moves very quickly from one company to another anyway. Why isn’t there more collaboration?

Rick Schwartz recently decided to quit blogging, in part because he feels like his pleas/warnings have been falling on deaf ears. Elliot Silver has had a lot to say for the ICA (Internet Commerce Association) lately. They are both frustrated because so few people/companies within the industry are supporting this organization that is allegedly working hard to support the interests of domain name registrants/investors. Why aren’t more people?

My gut tells me there’s just not enough perceived upside for the majority of people in the domain industry. There’s no “greater good” that’s being helped by the ICA. It’s like asking flyers to support an airline lobby group. Yeah, I benefit from favorable airline terms/contracts/legislation, but I’m not going to see dramatically improved service or significantly cheaper airfare. At best I’ll get to continue choosing between one crappy provider and the other. Wee. For 99% of people who play in the domain sandbox it’s the same thing. They haven’t invested hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in domains, nor have they felt the sting of losing an investment. Why should they plunk down $300 at this point? Where is their perceived value?

The ICA needs to do a much better job of transparency and visibility for itself. I’ve attended several shows where the booth space for ICA has been empty. I know, it’s a small organization. But where else are the small to mid sized domainers going to find Michael Collins? They aren’t going to be rubbing elbows with the big shots, they are going to be roaming the trade show floor looking for information, answers, help in growing their business. This is another missing component of the ICA. As a trade organization what services, what resources is the ISA providing that the average domainer can latch onto as a benefit. Whether it’s the American Association of Cosmetology Schools or the National Association of Theater Owners or any of the thousands of other trade organizations around the world, you’ll notice that there are real resources available to members. There needs to be a two way relationship like that with the ICA as well.

OpenSocial has gotten more people interested in being involved in a single day than the ICA has gotten in the two years it’s been in existence. If what you are doing isn’t working, it’s time to change tactics guys. Here’s hoping I see you at a booth in San Francisco!

Disclaimer: I am not, in anyway, saying the ICA is not worth supporting. Quite the contrary. Go. Join. Prosper!