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OpenSocial, Google's Open Answer to Facebook

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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.

90 Responses to “OpenSocial, Google's Open Answer to Facebook”

  1. Question

    I don’t use Orkut, hi5 (which spams your address book and sends invites to EVERYONE without your consent), Flixter (similarly dubious), or ANY these other sites OpenSocial is collaborating with. Why can’t Google integrate Last.FM, YouTube, LJ–in a nutshell, sites PEOPLE ACTUALLY VISIT REGULARLY.

  2. On further analyzing this, it is a SOA strategy, Google has just taken the leaf out of that and is putting the pieces together to build an open and interoperable platform. This will hurt myspace, facebookMicrosoft) and yahoo in coming months as Google has the potential to make others less significant players . For me one noticeable player missing is, rest are all good.

  3. Well Google is definitely making sure Microsoft’s investment and momentum is of no use now. Its killing two birds with one stone, may be three (myspace, facebook, microsoft). Google is definitely hurting Microsoft big time and making them nervous and make mistakes. Not to mention apple is not making Microsoft life easier as well.
    Anyway this is more of a sensible move rather than invent a new phenomenon, let us concentrate on synerging whats already their.

    Some lesson for Linux vendors, to follow googles lead.

  4. Guruprasad V

    Google strikes back- Microsoft better listen! or?

    From my understanding I think that Google is making itself as a platform to launch social networks which is similar to any operating system. Would this strategy work? TOugh to tell now. Since google is having its own social networking site, we don’t know how its competitors would like to collaborate with google. Wait and watch is my advice!

  5. This is about more than widgets. Essentially this is OpenID + Social Graph in one API, open to any app developer.

    Flixster, iLike, RockYou etc. will love this because they can now create apps that are “socially aware” and are not limited to being inside the Facebook walled garden. Imagine going to iLike for the first time, already having login creds and an existing network of friends that you can interact with without having to re-establish them. That is where this thing is going to really take off.

    Oh and let’s not forget that Google is/probably has been consuming these APIs themselves. One obvious scenario: No longer having to keep your GMail address book up to date manually. Your social graph is your rolodex.

  6. pacificleo1

    this is all very good . but how will it stop mass exodus of users from Xing ,Hi5,Friendster to Facebook. Its not clear how Google is adding value to the equation here . do they seriously think that API Brokerage is a long term competitive advantage .
    or they are trying to put forward and standardized a Soc. Nw. Markup language ? later makes more sense as this Markup language will be tightly coupled with AdSense .

    But this is a risky strategy because if they fail in doing that it will be a validation for facebook .Given the growing product line of Google its very very unlikely that this product will get enough
    management bandwidth . this might be fatal for the initiative .

    Hi5,friendster ,Xing have made alliance with Google to boost their usage ,if this fail, say in 02 years max is it very hard to imagine these Tier 2 Soc. Nw opening up their gates for supporting Facebook API based application too .

    After all you loose your virginity only once and than you can’t go back to it.

  7. “OpenSocial attacks Facebook where it is the weakest (and the strongest): its quintessential closed nature ”
    Isnt that what gives a social network users the ‘warm & fuzzy’ feeling that they are ‘connected’ to only the people they trust , anyways ?

  8. The timing of this announcement was likely driven more by the markets than by technical/internet issues. Google had to respond to Microsoft’s moves so they needed to get this announcement done. More info and a clearer picture in the near future.

  9. Om,
    what role is google playing here. Are they trying to be the middle man for all the developer community and small startups that write widgets. If that is the case- who is making the money?. Or- are they playing the role of a widgetbox with API’s to access other social network community.
    Even I have written something about this news in my blog. Neverthless, I would love to hear your insights on this.

  10. Does this mean I’ll be able to add my friends to any one of the networks and it will get added to all of them? What does this mean for users of these host networks, apart from the proliferation of apps?

  11. Isn’t this becoming more and more confusing. There is a old saying ” When Elephants make love or war the grass gets trampled”

    FOr small businesses who are looking to use social media to futher thier business whare do they start ?

  12. joe shmoe

    I was hoping you’d elaborate much more commenting on the strategy of Google. In my very limited understanding, I don’t see this as a potential threat to Facebook from the advertising perspective. Would Google have access to the user profile of all the “hosts”? So, what if its providing this API to tie in widget development? Apart from taking away the exclusivity of some of FB apps (perhaps) how is Google benefiting here? (Apart from the orkut data it has ofcoz).

    I thought you could comment on these issues rather than having an “informative” post which is more like a news headline repeat.