For how long, the Open Platform has being played around in China? Things were quite exciting especially when you read almost all the leading social networks agreed to support open standard such as OpenSocial. Almost two years passed since Sohu launched the first Open Platform, some people finally found it was not that interesting as they were expecting. 51 is now closing down its platform and only accept applications from trusted third parties, and RenRen requires its application development partners to sign an exclusive agreement which means the applications can not be deployed on other social open platform for a certain period.

Even though the hype of Open Platform for Chinese SNS seems gone, Taobao, as the e-commerce site with over 85% C2C market share in China, launched its own Taobao Open Platform (TOP) which allows third parties build the applications that can access the data from Taobao, such as the products details, the seller information etc.

1. Why OpenSocial idea is not working well?

The open technology such as OpenSocial builds a beautiful picture for the future of Internet. Technically, they are wonderful and leads us a way closer to the Open fantasy. But commercially, we have to admit there is something was not concerned but it should be. The platform operators, especially in China are more interested in $$$ than the technology; Lacking of high-quality third-party developers becomes a key issue; Users started complaining about the quality of applications, which leave the operators with no choice, closing the doors to those new developers and small teams which they don’t trust.

2. TOP is for the real money

Virtual money, is widely implemented in the applications on SNS’s open platform. You spend real money to get virtual coins in order to buy virtual goods, equipment etc online, which becomes a very important method for application developers and platform operators to make money from open platforms. Built on Taobao, the No.1 e-commerce site, TOP is born to be very different: It is a platform for the real money!! With the access to the huge valuable Taobao’s data, third parties are able to develop interesting application/service to make millions of Taobao customers’ online shopping experience easier. Besides the most-used revenue model, such as ads display, the developer can also get compensation by charging commission fee per transaction done on Taobao.

3. Some interesting applications

TOP is for Taobao, therefore you would not see many entertainment-centric applications or social games, instead more applications are built around e-commerce. Let’s take a look at SoTuGou, the winner of TOP competition 2009 as an example. Basically, on SoTuGou, you can simply upload the picture of the product you want but don’t know where to get it, then the system will analyze the picture and extract the details such as the color, the shape etc, and return the similar products which are listed on Taobao and match some criteria. You click on the result, and you will be directed to that Taobao shop which sells this product. It sounds a perfect and efficient online shopping experience.

Two mobile applications which won the TOP10 of the competition are also very interesting, ZhouBianTao can tell you which Taobao street shops or sellers are in your area, and MaShangTao is like ShopSavvy which can scan the barcode/QR-code to get the product details then search it on Taobao to find who is selling it as well as the price difference between Taobao shops and the market.

TOP rethinks the open platform from the completely different angle which makes it so unique among all the international or Chinese open platforms.

Gang Lu

Dr. Gang Lu - Founder of TechNode. He's a Blogger, a Geek, a PhD and a Speaker, with passion in Tech, Internet and R'N'R.

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