And Google Strikes Back With OpenSocial

by Sachin Balagopalan on October 31, 2007 · 2 comments

It was only last week Google lost it’s bid to Microsoft to invest in FaceBook and now the company is announcing that it will be releasing a set of API’s that will not only work with Orkut but other social networking sites as well provided they participate. TechCrunch is reporting that the participating host social networks, include Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle.

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.

The idea is pretty simple - Google is going to provide the plumbing for developers to extract profile and friends (a.k.a. social graph) information from these participating hosts and unlike FaceBook, developers are not required to learn a proprietary markup language. The API’s will be accessible via JavaScript and HTML so there is no learning curve involved. You could argue that even though FaceBook also provides an API for developers to build applications it is not truly open because you cannot extract data out of FaceBook. Developers can only develop applications on FaceBook which is basically their strategy - a web operating system (like Windows is to the desktop).

The question is what is Google’s strategy vis a vis OpenSocial? Even more so would we even be having this conversation if Google had been the one investing in FaceBook and not Microsoft? IMO I’m afraid the only strategy here is to beat Microsoft and they are calling a play from the old play book that has worked for them several times against Microsoft. Now that Microsoft stands to bite a huge chunk of advertising revenues with the FaceBook deal, Google is striking back to protect what has traditionally been their territory. Isolating FaceBook and Microsoft is clearly the strategy and they are doing this by exploiting the fact that FaceBook is a closed platform. By allowing third party developers to access data from any social networking site and using that data in their own applications and perhaps monetizing it, Google is hoping to steal the thunder away from FaceBook.

IMO, the only problem is FaceBook is pretty well entrenched right now and the only reason people are signing up on FaceBook is because their friends are on it. I don’t think the average user is going to care what type of applications are available on the site. It should be pretty interesting to see how this one pans out.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Thunk Different. 10.31.07 at 2:11 pm

Oh that googley eyed google!

Lawrence Goldstein 11.06.07 at 11:07 am

Checkmate! Game over. Facebook is toast! Why? Because if Facebook joins Google’s OpenSocial they would be admitting defeat and become just another sheep in Google’s herd but if they don’t join they will die a slow and painful death. Why?Because Google is offering to host the apps that developers create on it’s platform which means developers don’t have to pay for hosting fees or bandwidth. Many apps that became popular on Facebook caused their owners more money to maintain due to increased bandwidth than they were making from ads. As a result few saw any real profits.This addresses that problem. I can’t help but wonder what the executives who defected from Goggle to Facebook when Facebook was the flavor of the week are thinking now. Probably something like…oh s___!what have I done! Make no mistake this is a killer app. Advertisers only care about the bottom line and who can deliver it best. Thousands of websites using the same common API(not a day will go by from this day forward without a major website announcing they’re joining Googles/Myspace OpenSocial)or one website,Facebook using a variation of HTML that’s not compatible with anything. Myspace and Google together is a unbeatable one two punch. Besides, Facebook is still on a learning curve as can be seen by how they are constantly changing their developers documentation and rules for conducting business on the platform not to mention apps disappearing into thin air. Google/Myspace is the gold standard and will implement OpenSocial much more smoothly. Google/Myspace was in the widget game way before Facebook opened up to developers only six months ago. Facebook is a walled garden and it indiscriminately picks and chooses which apps get high visibility while it tweaks it’s platform to keep other apps from succeeding. Also they deny apps submission into their directory on a whim thus a large underground subset of apps some of which are very popular will migrate from Facebook where they were denied entry for no apparent reason over to Google/Myspace. Facebook belongs to a bunch of nouveau riche wannabe stuckup spoiled brats who thought they had the world on a string. Now they must eat humble pie and bow down and kiss the ring that is Google/Myspace. Oh well,so much for Facebooks 15 billion dollar valuation. They’ll be lucky if they can get 1 billion now. Why develope on Facebook which claims to have 50 million members when you can develope on Google’s/Myspace platform which has 200 million members…do the math. Stick a fork in it! Facebook is toast!

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