Earlier today, Scripting News editor Dave Winer published a post that asked whether Twitter and Facebook are silos. In that post, Winer, who is recognized by many as the father of blogging and a pioneer of the RSS protocol, also wonders whether the presence of APIs make a difference. Asked Winer in the post, "Through [Twitter's and Facebook's] APIs, I can post remotely. In fact, my new product Radio3 can post to both, along with WordPress and its own RSS feed. So if both are all API'd-up, how could they be silos?"
There's no question that the presence of APIs creates the perception of openness. But that still doesn't answer the question of whether Twitter and Facebook are silos or not. Social networks are perhaps one of the better classes of technology for examining this question because of the chain of relationships that exist within them; often called a social graph. Your social graph consists of the people and other entities that you're connected to. On Facebook, this could be the friends you have, the pages you've liked, the people you've followed and the people who follow you. On Twittter, it is at the very least the Twitter accounts that you follow and the Twitter accounts that follow you. But in reality, those are your Facebook graph and your Twitter graph.
Your complete social graph is really the aggregate of these connections across all of the social networks that you participate in. The only problem is that when you're traversing your Facebook graph, it's not very easily connected to your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google Plus graphs and vice versa. In other words, because of how the various social networks are siloed from one another, it's not that easy for someone to traverse your entire social graph without deliberately jumping silos from one domain to another. If the data kept in each domain were more naturally connected to one another in a way that was readable by both humans and machines, we might not have to leap from silo to silo the way we do now. APIs make it possible to reconcile some of differences between the various social networks. But not all.