There go the social networking neighborhoods! Google, Yahoo and MySpace are taking a page from the Mozilla Foundation by creating a nonprofit foundation to control and maintain the OpenSocial code, which allows developers to build applications that work on a variety of social networks. The core companies will still contribute to the code, but as of July 1, it will become a community effort. This move legitimizes the idea of a social network as a platform, as it offers the ability to develop for a variety of social networks in one go; it also signals that social networks are becoming a commodity.
The move is great for developers, who will soon be able to develop for the two prevailing social networking platforms (OpenSocial and Facebook), rather than having to write several versions of the same program for different sites. But it won’t be any fun for social networks, which may find themselves hosting the same sites for slightly different groups of people. Sure your friends might be scattered across a bunch of different networks, but as data portability increases, it’s really just a matter of time before people look at a social network they way they look at a mall. Most malls contain the same stores, so one isn’t that different from another. If all social networks have the same applications, they may all end up looking the same, too.