OpenSocial, Google's Open Answer to Facebook

opensocial2.gifGoogle’s (GOOG) much awaited answer to Facebook ecosystem is finally coming to light. The existence of this Google platform was first reported by TechCrunch and is going to become official tomorrow.

Google will announce its new social networking initiative, Open Social on Thursday. Joining Google and its Orkut social network are other partners such as XING, Friendster, hi5, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Newsgator and Ning.

OpenSocial is a set of common APIs for building social applications on the web. These common APIs mean that developers only have to learn once in order to start building social applications for multiple websites, and any website will be able to implement OpenSocial and host social applications.

OpenSocial attacks Facebook where it is the weakest (and the strongest): its quintessential closed nature. Several Facebook developers have groused that a special Facebook-only mark-up language makes the task of writing Facebook apps tougher. (Recommended reading: Anil Dash on the historical limitations of proprietary development platforms.)

Google has managed to attract some of the key Facebook app companies Flixster, Rock You, Slide, and iLike to work with them on OpenSocial. The lure of expanding their widget base to other Social platforms such as hi5 and XING, perhaps was too hard for them to resist.

Even if you take Facebook out of the equation, the task of writing and adapting widgets for the every increasing number of social platforms was going to turn into a colossal mess. OpenSocial looks to address some of those issues. This is a mild negative for start-ups who are offering middleware services around widgets.

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