Interview

OpenFeint co-founder Peter Relan announces open source services platform OpenKit

Solving today's mobile data problem with total trust

OpenFeint co-founder Peter Relan announces open source services platform OpenKit
Given the long moan arising from developers following the news GREE is shutting OpenFeint's servers (due 14 December), it's not surprising someone has proposed a solution.

What is surprising, however, is that person is Peter Relan, the entrepreneur who funded OpenFeint's operations prior to its $104 million acquisition by the Japanese social giant.

"Let's get it straight. This is not OpenFeint 2.0," he is keen to point out, about his just announced initiative OpenKit.

Yet as someone who remains close to the mobile gaming community - Relan continues to fund many start ups through his YouWeb incubator - the outcry did get his attention.

"I knew OpenFeint would be phased out. That's logical, even if it didn't happen as smoothly as developers hoped," he ponders.

"But a lot of them contacted me, and that started me thinking about what developers need now."

Opensesame

From that starting point, it didn't take long to decide that the fundamental question was 'How do you trust an API?', particularly when the company operating it can be bought and the vision behind that API radically altered.

On that level, the solution is simple.

"Developers have to own the API. It needs to be open source," Relan says.

What it is and what it does requires more thought, though.

"Back in 2009, the problem was leaderboards for games and that's how we came up with OpenFeint," he says. "Now, the pain is the entire backend."

OpenKit won't be as game-centric as OpenFeint was, although Relan expects the initial take up to be among game developers.

"But it's not about features any more," he argues. "It's about the architectural vision of providing a set of services whereby developers can host themselves, and have the option of pressing a button and get all their data out."

Do It Yourself

In this way, Relan explains OpenKit's operation using the analogy of the successful software hosting platform GitHub.

"How would developers feel if they could never get their code off GitHub?" he questions.

Relan also proposes OpenKit - a cloud-based platform for iOS and Android, and launching with services such as leaderboards and achievements, and connections to Facebook, Game Center, Twitter, Google+, GREE etc - will use a similar usage-based freemium revenue model.

"Developers will be able to host if they want to, but it's a pain to host stuff, so that's how OpenKit will be funded," he explains.

The cost dilemma

To that degree, the solution to his 'trust dilemma' will be moderated by a balance between hassle and cost.

Developers who don't trust OpenKit can use the code and host the services themselves, experiencing hassle and no cost, while more trusting outfits can spend a little to reduce their hassle, while always having the ultimate option to leave with their data fully intact.

"OpenKit won't ever be a huge company, but I'm not doing it for charity," Relan says, concerning its business model.

Compared to OpenFeint, however, which famously was never profitable (at least operationally), he thinks a developer-focused model makes more sense than a consumer-focused one.

And as for getting OpenKit off-the-ground, he says he's prepared to fund a team to get working on the project immediately, always assuming there's enough industry support.

Interested parties can find out more and sign up now via the OpenKit website.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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