Murphy's Law: Steam, Meet Facebook... and its New Best Friend, Open Source

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HouseofBlues

Yeah, Like I want my friends from 20+ years ago to remember how much of a geek I really am! I don't want any kind of Facebook added to my Steam account, so what, everyknow can know how much I game!

 

When I think of something grand, I won't let you know!

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Trooper_One

The Steam interface hasn't changed since HF2 days is a testament on its easy of use, stability, and informative.  In contrast to EA's d/l interface, which has changed many times, not always for the better, is nothing compare to Steam.

 I hope they don't make too many radical changes to it as I like the current interface just like it is.

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To0nces

I'm going to have to used the old and tired adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I don't need a fancier interface. I don't need (or even want) integration with Facebook. I like Steam just fine the way it is. I use Steam for one thing, and one thing only: purchase and download games. I don't even make use of the existing Steam Community feature hardly at all.

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Modred189

Yea, but I think we can agree that replacing the IE-based browser with a webkit based one was NEEDED.

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whr4usa

IE8 is an amazing browser just like Opera & Chrome 

IE prior to 8 fails

just keeping the record straight (:

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AntiHero

IE8 is ok, the colored tabs is nice, however what I hate in IE8 is when it came out I was doing web design, and I've expressed my issues numerous times where what was happening was that I used PHP and CSS to make my websites and when my customers upgraded to 8, they were getting the pages showing up as they did in IE6, (Drop down menu in list tags showing as ONE block where the first item on the menu begins, colors not working, specific blocks like sidebar.php and page.php not fittng correctly and being wherever they want, also undefined lines and margins) and Compatability view fixed that, saying that it was designed for older browsers. ASP worked fine, HTML worked great, and of course Flash worked, it always will, but PHP did not work, nor did CSS. The thing about IE, is that when you code for it, there are instances where you absolutely must make a second set of code in the CSS for IE since it doesn't read it like Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari does. That is why I hate IE, and 8 moreover. IE7 was the best release IMO, since it was faster, cleaner and easier to code for. I would rather write a second set of tags for certain groups of code in CSS, then have to write a whole new type of page because my customer looks at the page in IE8's stock settings and goes "WHAT IS THIS! THIS IS HORRIBLE" then have to explain what happened.

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Modred189

I would respectfully disagree for two reasons:

- On my netbook, it is MUCH slower than Chrome

- I HATE how everytime I click something, it makes a clicking noise through my speakers. NO reason for that.

I do like the colored tabs thing, however... 

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Biceps

IE 8 is good, but Chrome is awesome.  Firefox is great if you are a customization geek, too, but I haven't found a faster browser than Chrome yet.

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whr4usa

IE7 was an elaboarate optimization of IE6 which really hadn't changed since InternetExplorer was first released

IE8 was rebuilt from the ground up but carried over & enhanced the IE7 interface so I can understand your points even though being a security-oriented IT guy, IE8 is much more secure & better maintained than Firefox 3.x or Safari (these browsers also have known resource abuse tendencies)

IE9 is a gamechanger, I'm running a mix of IE8, Opera 10.55, Chrome & the IE9 Developer Preview in that order

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TheMurph

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

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Biceps

 Oh the joy of customization.  I really have to agree with the people below arguing that having a more customized interface and a greater degree of 'openness' would be a mistake for a service like Steam.  Let me explain my opinion in a little more detail, though:

(1) Steam is for games, not for 'information of all kinds'.

  • Steam has made one promise to me: to make it easy for my to purchase and keep my games, and access them from anywhere.
  • Steam is very good at providing me with games, and I have never had a problem downloading a game or redownloading a game.
  • Their support is focused on games, and on their own admittedly limited interface.
  • I don't want to watch movies on steam, I don't want to download music, and I don't think Valve particularly wants to (or even can) compete with market leaders for digital downloads of other kinds of media.  It would be like ragging on Netflix for not offering game downloads.

(2) Steam does actually have social networking.

  • If you are a popular as I am (and, dude, I am soooo popular), you have a lot of friends on Steam.  FYI, I don't really care who they are in real life, and don't necessarily want them to know who I am - so the idea of linking up Steam to some sort of Facebook service is acutally pretty appalling to me. Game friends are just that... game friends.  If I really hit it off with someone, I can always send them my phone number on chat.
  • Along that line: do you really want your co-workers to see that you have spent 35 hours this week playing Hello-Kitty Island Adventure?  Even your girlfriend might not let you live that one down.

In conclusion, there is a diminishing return to 'openness', and it is inimical to security.  Steam should, in my opinion, focus on continuing to do well what they do well: selling games.

Oh, and some quick language tips for the editors:

(1)It is = It's; Possessive 'Its' has no apostrophe, because otherwise it would be confused with It is = it's.

(2) There is a place, their is possessive (like my girlfriend) and They're = They are

(3) P.S. Spellcheck is not dead, it is just in the toolbar.

Whirled Peas,

Biceps

 

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Bustout

Unlike you, I'd prefer to only game with friends I already know, I find that I invest more of myself into a game if I'm sharing the experience with a good friend instead of some unknown anonymous person.

Being able to sign in to Steam and see a list of my Facebook friends that already have a Steam ID would be great since I could just add them all from that screen. That's really the only Facebook integration that I would like added. Much the same way that you can search for new Facebook friends from your aim login.

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Biceps

I understand where you are coming from on that on, and can't really argue that your preferences aren't valid, because you want what you want.  However, couldn't you just send your Steam ID to your Facebook friends? While it is not a 'one-click' solution, it allows those of us who want to remain anonymous on Steam to do so... and there seem to be a lot of (vocal) people opposing the integration of Facebook or something similar with Steam here.

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Bustout

Like every other site that integrates with Facebook, I'm sure this would be an Opt In feature. Why not provide it for those that want it?

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Trooper_One

... you did spend 35 Hrs this week on Hello Kitty Treasure Island?

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Biceps

But I'm not saying anything more on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.

Whirled Peas,

Biceps

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lunchbox73

Very well written. I agree with you 100%. By the way, add me as a friend so we can play Hello-Kitty Island Adventure co-op.

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Modred189

My point exactly (though caught by the spam filter). Keep steam light and targeted to the audience and purpose. 

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Neufeldt2002

I look forward to when not everything is compared to facebook. Or a week can go buy without mentioning it. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

I wanted a signature, but all I got was this ________

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whr4usa

I love fb but AMEN lol platform not cultural addiction (:

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TheMurph

Fair.  It's a large platform that's been in the news lately for its increased adoption of open standards and development, however.  I find the parallel interesting.

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greencpu

why would either facebook or steam want to make themselves more open?

 

Sure it might be nice for some users.  But what happens when Billy loads ups some random interface he pulled from some random source, and then can't figure out how to launch his games?

I believe that the reason steam won't open up or allow different interfaces is largely due to support concerns.

 

When you have millions of accounts users, like facebook or steam, you need to narrow the failure points so that you can both ensure that users will have a reliable service, and also to be able to support them when they have issues.

I think facebook "beat" myspace because of its limited interface.  When you go to a facebook user's page, you know exactly where everything is.  this is a benefit to the new users, and increases adoption.  compare it to myspace, where every page has some random layout, complete with blaring music, and you can't even figure out how to disable it. 

 

This is bourne out by the cries of "the new facebook/steam sucks" which come every time there is even the slightest change to the interface.  It isn't that users love the old look.  it is that they know how to use it.

and regardless of what a user might think they want if they were to make their own changes to that interface, I believe that the majority of users are only going to be intruducing problems for themselves by doing so.

problems with the product, no matter HOW they were introduced results in dissatisfaction with the product.  This eventually leads to less use of the product = less $$$ for the produced.

 

 

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TheMurph

"why would either facebook or steam want to make themselves more open?"

Well, it depends how we're using "open" in this case.  From a pure logistics level, Facebook has adopted open-source technologies to power the very core of its service as a matter of scalability -- that's why the servers didn't come to a flaming halt when the giant land grab for customized names happened.  Commercial solutions just don't allow Facebook the customization and developmental tweaks it needs to created a huge, grounded service.

As for "open" in the more general sense of the word, Facebook realizes that--although its service is immensely popular--it can hook even more users and transplant Facebook as a daily part of life by allowing people to interact with the service outside of the facebook.com domain itself.  Hence things like Facebook Connect and what-have-you.  It's just a means for integrating Facebook into more elements of one's digital life which, in turn, increases the popularity and need for the service itself.

I, for one, would love to be able to fire up my Steam friends in my chat client.  Or, for that matter, find a Web site that does a huge stats-dump of exactly what I've been up to on the service.  Things like that. 

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AntiHero

You've got a point with Open source here, however it will be abused. Steam (my account for one) basically contains hundreds of my dollars with games. I have a ton of different games on there, almost all of the ones I regularly play. I happen to like the new interface, even though there's a couple of features I would like, and some things I have seen in other programs that I think I would enjoy on there, I don't need it, and that's fine by me. I think they should allow the ability for open application development to start, this will pave the way for them moving into a direction of customizability. This will only have success if they remain secure. Accounts get cracked EVERY day, and that leaves users with hundreds of dollars wasted, and that's found via the steam id, server downloads that log and check packets for login information, where once that packet has been initialized, once you re-login it records what you've done, at least this is one method I've heard of out there in internetland.

If Valve can remain secure with Steam, however allow us (the users) to edit it freely, it will gain a lot less complaints, and issues people have might be solved faster when different eyes are looking at the error, they check a report, and go "maybe this could be where you start finding the error." There are a lot of good reasons to do this...yet also some negative, main one being cracked accounts. Steam carries a LOT of personal information, as well as a lot of money in video games. They can't have everyone editing stuff and adding things at will, or else someone will abuse it.

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TheMurph

It can be abused.  That doesn't mean it will always be abused.  Unless someone has gained the keys to the kingdom in some capacity, services like OAuth offer powerful techniques for allowing third-parties access to the a core platform without requiring you to compromise your actual login/password on a site you don't explicitly trust.

While perhaps it's not in Valve's best interests to let anyone edit the service freely--just as I can't go about tweaking my Facebook page as if I was on the dreaded MySpace platform or something--I still think there's a lot of potential were Steam to adopt more open-source technologies that encouraged increased development and interest by the greater community.  Were I a businessperson (or a software developer), I could probably brainstorm a ton of cool ways that the information and content on Steam could be used in an entirely new fashion -- the Twitterfall of Steam, as it were.  

As I mentioned above, though, Steam could always adopt a service like Oauth to close the fears of account exploits when using third-party services.  Of course, that's putting the cart before the horse -- these services have to exist first.

To your point, perhaps Steam should begin allowing users to develop security tokens a la Blizzard's little USB authenticator for its WoW accounts.  Lord knows if I spent $1,000+ on my Steam games, I'd be happy to sink another $7 for a permanently secure login solution. 

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Biceps

I have to say that if the internet has shown us anything it is that if something can be abused, it will be abused. Some examples:

  • Facebook has been hacked how many times? And makers of Facebook apps have been shown to be abusing/not properly protecting customer's data how many times?
  • Viruses, Trojans and Rootkits are there because there is always some jerk out there who gets a kick out of breaking stuff. I really don't think Steam would be an exception to this... just look at all the hackers you run into in TF2 if you are in doubt.
  • Security measures exist to be broken, and will be eventually.  Therefore, when you are dealing with credit card payments, and with hundreds and sometimes thousands of $'s of your users property, it doesn't makes sense to trust that no one will abuse the system. They will.
  • Final Example: Do you remember that flash game where you get to shoot a little kitty out of a cannon, and see how many times you could make him bounce? Yeah? Did you love that game? Me too!  So even you will abuse things on the web, given half a chance. See??!!

Seriously, Murph, I love your articles.  While I don't always agree with you, you always throw out topics that are interesting and get people thinking - as evidenced by the 20-something comments on your article today already.  Keep em coming.

Whirled Peas,

Biceps

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iNNeR_KaoS

Koobface, anyone?

 

Open platform means more risks. I say let the control stay with Steam. Customization isn't that important to the people who use it solely as a digital distribution platform.

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TheMurph

That's quite a generalization, given that huge Web services like Twitter, Facebook, and Google itself all support the concept of the Open Web via integrated services like Oauth, OpenID, Facebook Connect, et cetera.  I don't see the Web yet falling apart because of the "increased risks" you speak of with these open platforms.

Obviously, moving to a more open development does require a focus on security.  Given Steam's existence as a unifying platform for digital distribution, one would hope that security is at the forefront of their every interaction.  I sure wouldn't want my huge stash of games compromised, that's for sure.

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To0nces

You keep pointing to Facebook, Twitter, and Google services as an example. That's well and good, but those are free services. I don't have hundreds of dollars worth of games and my CC info on Facebook and Twitter. Could it work? It could. But I don't see any reason to downplay the security risks. If Valve screwed up, it could destroy their business.

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whr4usa

StarDock's Impulse platform is less than a year old (2 if you count closed & open alphas & beta releases) yet is already statistically tied as the third largest digital distribution system (XBox\Windows Live Marketplace & Steam being the other 2)

unlike steam it was designed from the ground up as a community platform not just digital distribution

it borrows features from steam, xfire, ign.com, facebook & live; integrating them into a single clean, simple interface that borrows from ribbon\aero & sd's own graphic mark on the pc world (think customizable dell & hp laptops, W7 developement assistance etc)

although I'vn't felt the need yet for an exhaustive review this IT guy finds it to be quite secure & lightweight

the best part is that Impulse is actually a 3-part platform; the free client application, free-upon-commercial request developement kit (to harness the digital distribution network's features etc) and the server/platform itself (maintained by SD) with its associated code plugin (think how xfire recognizes new, unsupported-as-yet games)

Steam is dead to me as a platform like Apple (:

 

stardock.com

impulsedriven.net

 

WHY MaxPC!? why have you never features any of StarDock's innovations before..?

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TheMurph

Good idea for a column...  ; )

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whr4usa

agreed!

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wintercoder

Apparently the Steam service works for it's intended purpose, which is to rake in the cash... and I applaud them for it.

Let's let them focus on delivering the games with a reliable mechanism... they do not need to serve your customization fetish.

 

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TheMurph

In that case, why bother rewriting the UI in the first place?  The old version worked just fine for Steam's single-and-only purpose of delivering games.

Heck, I think the 2003-version of Steam did an even better job of stripping away all unintended functionality.  We should all go back to using that, as to not be tragically blinded by stupid customizations like a friend system, or a community, or a stupid Steam Cloud, et cetera.

You must really hate Firefox too. 

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lll_ll_l_llll_lll

Wow, even paid journalists can't get it's and its correct any more.

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TheMurph

Whoo, lordy.  Egg.  On.  The.  Face.

Thanks for letting me know! 

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AntiHero

Everyone makes mistakes dude.

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MikeV

Were they to make your Steam client much more like Facebook, allowing God-knows-who access to Steam user data, wouldn't that be counterproductive and perhaps, unsafe? It's one thing to let Steam users interact with each other and the developers of software they use via Steam.

But opening up Steam and/or it's data and the client itself to anyone that wants to party at my expense is something I wouldn't want to invite. The client is, after all, a platform to play and sell games. If they start bloating it up into a boutique of endless K-Marts, chatrooms, and thousands of web pages, all generated using our/my data (that is precisely what 3rd parties want from such a platform) they'll end up degrading the purpose for which it was built, and worse.

Facebook may be getting flak for being closed to others. But then, there are privacy laws in all countries, and some of them find this whole aspect of "opening up users and data" to be a bit too big brother-ish, and/or a threat to a person's privacy. And Facebook is amoung those some countries do not like in this regard.

If my 10 year old wants to play a game only available through Steam, is my purchase for my kid an entitlement to Valve to share data about my kid merely because it has a "open standards community" that volunteers data to any other "community"? That may not be the thrust of this whole article, but beneath it's current, I can see where this integration and openess goes. The only ones to truly benefit are those that can massage all the i/o. That won't be the lil guy with the mouse, whether it is you, me, or some kid.

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TheMurph

"If they start bloating it up into a boutique of endless K-Marts, chatrooms, and thousands of web pages, all generated using our/my data (that is precisely what 3rd parties want from such a platform) they'll end up degrading the purpose for which it was built, and worse."

But isn't this your choice?  As much as I detest most of the third-party content on Facebook, it's not as if anyone is holding a gun to my head and demanding that I install Farmville.  And I can just as easily flick off all updates from third-party services I find irritating.  Done and done.

I would hope that Valve would have the foresight to not transform Steam into MySpace.  However, if third-party developers are given the keys to the open Steam castle, I think that they'd be able to spin-off some really interesting applications related to the service that might, in some cases, be better than what you'd find on Steam itself.  

The platform is the digital distribution, just like Twitter's platform is the real-time data.  Why should it matter how I interact with this service from the standpoint of a desktop or Web client, just so long as the secure tunnel between Steam and I remains intact?  Heck, a little bit of open development might even allow for the creation of a Steam Web entity--a way to manage your games, develop group schedules, and chat with your friends without having to download a single tool at all.

While I agree that bloat is something all companies should strive to fight in their products, I think that users are similarly free to choose what services--based on a common platform--they want to use.  If you don't want to use the service, and don't trust anything that doesn't have Valve's stamp on it, then that's a perfectly fine conclusion and you can ignore all the third-party services you don't want to use at your leisure...  just like I don't use Twitterfall, or AwesomeTwitter, or TwitterWebNew to manage my interactions with that platform.

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Cooketh

It's for downloading games.. I'd say it's serving its function pretty well. This article is just nit-picking crap that's irrelevant to what valve is trying to do.

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TheMurph

Yeah, minus that whole push for community aspects, achievements, and the lot...  Steam is built around downloading games, but it's a full social platform as well, not just a package manager.

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Biceps

I agree with you here, but don't you think that there is a limit to how much 'FUNctionality' (get it?, haha!) you can add?  I love steam because it is LIGHT and the social aspects of it work (almost) flawlessly. That is truly what makes Steam awesome and why it is installed on every computer in my home.  If you add too much to it (I really don't like the idea of 3rd party apps, for example, as those have been a gaping security issue for Facebook) you might run the risk of turning a fantastic light platform into something that is too heavy to be useful.

What if people keep old computers around so they can play their oldest steam favorites, but they can't run the new and 'improved' version of steam because it is too feature rich (read: heavy).

Just tossing it out there.

Whirled Peas,

Biceps

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To0nces

That brings up another interesting point: if the Steam client is required to remain in the background while playing, adding all of these features could potentially make it's CPU and memory usage higher than acceptable.

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phanboy4

Oh come now, that's a drastic oversimplification. Valve themselves
have been pushing Steam into the social networking arena for some time
now. It was always about more than just a game downloader, and Valve is
most certainly going to continue down that path.

On a note related
to the article, the Steam beta update includes the switch to WebKit as
the Steam HTML renderer. WebKit is itself a piece of open-source
software and is a welcome improvement over the old embedded IE.

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stytch

I have to agree.  You like facebook and all of those other open source applications that make life easy and "pretty"...use em.  While steam isn't pretty, in the authors opinion, ... it works. (well mostly).  No need to go open source for the fixes.  If valve wants to tweak and give options, why should they yield to the pressure of open source?.  They are a business trying to make money.  The lack of a pretty or customizable interface isn't stoping them from delivering the games we want to our PC's.  Going open source means more opportunities to break its core features, as well as the potential risk of those unintended consequences that could break the games people have purchased...lots of risk (financially) for what?  nice color scheme?  a feature set that duplicates applications that are better suited to the task?    

 nit-picking....perfect . Hope this article doesn't eat up space in my printed version anytime soon, or I'm killing my subscription.

 

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TheMurph

 

"They are a business trying to make money."

So is Facebook, and they've realized that they can grow their business and increase the devotion of their users (and necessity of the service) by expanding past the walls of their facebook.com domain.  More people = more money, and I would expect that Valve--even though it "just delivers games," to paraphrase your point--would understand that the more ways it can increase its market share via open standards, the more it'll be able to attract new users (or increase the hook for existing users) to its service in any capacity.

I mean, shoot, a little over half the users on Twitter even use twitter.com to interact with the service.  How might that--and Twitter's popularity--have been affected if the company forced everyone to use its own Web gateway period?

 

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