Google forays into the heart of social networking

TechCrunch is reporting that November 5 Google, in another fit of competitive expansion (check out Google's funding of a trans-Pacific undersea multi-terabit cable), plans to lift the veil on its answer to Facebook. It was foretold in the 'Tech Talk' video presentation by Google’s Ben Darnell to new Google employees that escaped from the hive and outlined plans to add a social fabric a la Facebook to its applications in coming months.

TechCrunch is reporting that November 5 Google, in another fit of competitive expansion (check out Google's funding of a trans-Pacific undersea multi-terabit cable), plans to lift the veil on its answer to Facebook. It was foretold in the 'Tech Talk' video presentation by Google’s Ben Darnell to new Google employees that escaped from the hive and outlined plans to add a social fabric a la Facebook to its applications in coming months.Darnell describes the functionality of Reactor, the back end for managing RSS and Atom feeds, and how it will be used to power “activity streams” for a project code-named Makamaka (or Macamaca?), such as being able to see what feeds your friends are reading or YouTube videos they are watching.

TechCrunch reported:

Google’s goal - to fight Facebook by being even more open than the Facebook Platform. If Facebook is 98% open, Google wants to be 100%.

The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut [Google's social network, which is popular in Brazil] and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.

Like Facebook applications, iGoogle gadgets could access Orkut’s social graph information, and potentially other social networks such as Digg or Friendster...or maybe even Facebook and MySpace...could use the same APIs, just as Google Gears is being promoted as a kind of standard for offline functionality via JavaScript APIs.

Google's annoucement comes as Facebook is growing at more than 3 percent per week, and Yahoo introduced Mash, an 'exploratory' social networking application that adopts Facebook-like features, with a profile page and modules, such as Flickr photo feeds, Astrology and a feed of friends updates.

Meanwhile, Microsoft seems to be sitting on the sidelines, but you have to imagine that Ray Ozzie, who pioneered the last generation of collaboration, is percolating a plan or a major acquisition.

Google's forthcoming foray into the heart of social network also appears in the context of efforts from Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon to foster an open social graph, following up on what people like Marc Canter and Steve Gillmor have been preaching about for years. Joseph Smarr of Plaxo, Canter of Broadband Mechanics, Robert Scoble of PodTech and TechCrunch's Michael Arrington co-authored a kind of Bill of Rights for social network users, with some common sense guildelines--users should own their profile data, social graph, activity stream and how the data is shared.

Having the 800-pound search and advertising Gorilla enter the social network arena with full force tends to make people nervous. What happens when Google amasses data across search, applications and social networks for billions of users on the planet. Assuming a posture of openness, which at this point is not fully unpacked, will help to defuse the worst-case notion that an evil, alien Google would surface and take any form of onerous ownership of an individual's online persona.

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