Google's OpenSocial: What it means

Google's OpenSocial: What it means

Summary: Google's open social networking platform play is the buzz of the blogosphere tonight. (see Techmeme).


Google's open social networking platform play is the buzz of the blogosphere tonight. (see Techmeme). Indeed, it is called OpenSocial in that the set of APIs allows developers to create applications that work on any social network that joins Google's open party. So far, besides Google's Orkut social net, LinkedIn, hi5, XING, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning (see Marc Andreessen's post) have joined the party.

Oracle and are also supporting Google's OpenSocial efforts, which indicates that they have plans to add social networking elements to their application platforms. OpenSocial will officially launch on Thursday.

Plaxo emailed a statement about OpenSocial this evening, getting ahead of the stampede:

“Dynamic profiles redefine what users should expect in terms of how they can represent themselves in a social or business network,” said Todd Masonis, Co-Founder and VP of Products for Plaxo. “We believe that users should have full control over what they share with whom – and that the catalog of widgets that they can choose from should be as open and diverse as the web itself. We are excited to support in dynamic profiles any application written to Google’s just–launched OpenSocial APIs. ”

According to TechCrunch, which first reported on Google's larger social networking ambitions, OpenSocial consists of APIs for profile information, friend information (social graph) and activities, such as a news feed. OpenSocial users Javascript and HTML rather than a markup language as Facebook does.

This comes on the heels of the Facebook's dynamic growth based on opening its social graph to developers and Microsoft's $240 million investment for 1.6 percent of the company. However, unlike Google, Facebook doesn't open its APIs to support other social networks. The other social networking giant, MySpace, is also planning to open its platform to developers.

This openness is part of what Vic Gundotra, Google's head of developer programs, meant when he said last week, “In the next year we will make a series of announcements and spend hundreds of millions on innovations and giving them away as open source.”

He explained the newfound openness as more than altruism: “It also makes good economic sense. The more applications, the more usage. More users means more searches. And, more searches means more revenue for Google. The goal is to grow the overall market, not just to increase market share."

What does OpenSocial mean for Facebook?

Facebook has a lot of wind behind its sails, but OpenSocial will cause developers to rethink their priorities. Developing OpenSocial applications will be easier than creating Facebook apps and will work across different social networks. However, Facebook is winning because 50 million users like the service and the applications. Unless the other social networks, which in aggregate have more members, have greater appeal to users, Facebook will continue to gain ground and developers won't abandon the Facebook Platform. Facebook could also consider supporting OpenSocial in addition to its own APIs and markup languages as a way to be more open. It will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg and company, as well as the MySpace team, respond.

The New York Times story by Miguel Helft and Brad Stone quotes Google's Joe Kraus on the Facebook topic.

Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google, said that the alliance’s conversations preceded Microsoft’s investment in Facebook. “Obviously, we would love for them to be part of it,” Mr. Kraus said of Facebook. Facebook declined to comment.

What does OpenSocial mean for Google?

As cited above, OpenSocial is part of Google's quest to increase usage of the Web. More applications can mean more searches and ad searches. You could also expect some new advertising services based on tapping into the OpenSocial APIs that work across all compliant social networks. In addition, Google will weave OpenSocial across its services beyond Orkut, such as iGoogle, and eventually embed the social graph in the Internet fabric for its users.

This could create some issues for Facebook, which is rumored to be cooking up a targeted ad service that can follow its members across the Web. And, Google, taking a page from Microsoft, has some confidence that over time it can build or buy its ways into a leading social network. Google will try to have its cake and eat it too.

What does OpenSocial mean for users?

For users, it means more applications that can tap into user data, social graph, feeds and other content on a variety of social networks. They will have more choice of social networks and potentially some degree of portability as the APIs evolve and Google and other heavyweights push for more standardization.

What does OpenSocial mean for developers?

For developers, they have more opportunity to spread their work across different networks without significant cost and complexity. Many of the top Facebook developers are expected to support OpenSocial APIs. In the end, the top developers will flock to the social networks that have traction, leaving room for others to build apps for the less popular networks. What does OpenSocial mean longer term?

It could become a kind of identity fabric for the Internet--with user profile data, relationships (social graph) and other items associated with an individual, group or brand that is used as a basis for more friction-free interactions of all kinds.

See also: VentureBeat has a draft of the Google OpenSocial press release

Topics: Google, Collaboration, Networking, Software Development, Social Enterprise

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  • Huge Opportunity for Business Social Networks

    I was struck by how many business related partners they are. It made me think about the unique opportunity business social networking has with an open API like this:
  • Google outsmarts Microsoft again

    Why bank on a single social network, when you can work with all of them through common API. This is just another example of Google taking advantage of already-existing internet resources -- public web pages, other companies' social networks, public images, etc. -- finding ways to search and tie these resources together, then monetizing it. Microsoft has a lot to learn.
    • Not at all

      Microsoft invested in less then 2 percent but with the advertising contract to earn more then that. What is to stop Facebook (MS) from connecting in and earning even more?
      • I like Facebook but...

        I doubt it's future. It can easily disappear tomorrow the moment something nicer comes along.

        There is also a strong chance that it's room for growth is limited. Most people I've discussed social networking sites with, are very opinionated about which one is "best." The chances are that there will not be one dominant social network site. Although OpenSocial has a chance at being a dominant platform.
    • RE: Google's OpenSocial: What it means

      @killerbunny thanks for sharing bro
  • In one swift move Google...

    Makes MS look silly.

    If Google plays this right, the $240 million spent on FaceBook will look like an obvious mistake.

    Why have only one social network? The internet cannot monopolized, there will always be alternatives that are just as viable.
  • Lost

    MS should stop trying to compete and get back to the business of innovation. They're like a 40 year old trying to call next at what clearly is a game being played by talented 20 year olds. (*not to take anything away from being 40 ...I am!)
  • RE: Google's OpenSocial: What it means


    Will any of this garbage benefit our quality of life or help me understand my fellow humans?

    Answer: most definitely not.

    Seen this stuff come and go and this is no different.

    Leap-frog, leap-frog, who cares.
    • OpenSocial

      Great for Google.. Whatever!!!!!!! I fail to see the importance of Social Networking, good gawd get off your lazy arse and get a life. Get off the computer go out meet people! For those that cannot get out it's a wonderful thing to be able to interact with others, but for most it's a silly waste of time..
    • This is just the beginning of organic social connectedness!

      The living webs of organic socially connected cells that
      today parades around as the swaggering personas, that
      we all so enjoy being as conscious individuals, started
      out long ago as humble collections of much less
      connected cells.

      Now substitute individual persons for the cellular
      building block, step and repeat, with living webs of
      organic socially connected people

      and well, you get the idea, almost anything is possible,
      we might not even have to go to wars!
  • RE: Google's OpenSocial: What it means

    Remember Orkut - I hardly knew it. It was a closed network - invite only.

    And, for Google to introduce OpenSocial after Orkut is like Microsoft talking about open standards.
  • RE: Google's OpenSocial: What it means

    Here's some advice from my extensive pseudo-knowledge of social networks, especially on the business and development end. Change the name. OpenSocial may do a great job of encompassing its concept. But if you haven't already noticed a pattern with other social networks and even other web applications (Ning, Friendster, Plaxo, LinkedIn, yahoo, hotmail, zimbra, Hi5, XING, Myspace, Facebook) there's a limit to the amount of syllables. The trick is to keep the name to within two syllables-three syllables maximum. Trust me, if the name is as cool, catchy, innovative, and easy to type and say as "Gmail" or "Gtalk" you already have a guaranteed shot at the competition. Oh Oh I think I got it! Ready? (drum roll)
    I reserve all rights to my invention. And don't think I don't know how to sue. That includes you too zdnet! I can google dirt on you. Ok I am only kidding. Feel free to use it ...... (shifty eyes)....make my day. - I would like to see if this idea goes anywhere beyond this article. Let me know.
    • Better yet

      Forget the GPeople, that is clumsy to say. Why not "BHuman"?
    • Google's OpenSocial: What it means

      " Trust me, if the name is as cool, catchy, innovative, and easy to type and say as "Gmail" or "Gtalk" you already have a guaranteed shot at the competition. Oh Oh I think I got it! Ready? (drum roll).......Gpeople........ "

      How about.... Gspot!
      • It always happens

        "How about.... Gspot!"

        Haha just goes to show you can only keep porn-related content out of conversations for so long.
    • Open-Social captures concept for developers not branding for end users - NT

  • open social -- brought to you by the censors of miserable failure

    I really doubt that rational people will continue to trust a company that has now branched out into the businesses of censorship and data-mining private email. Maybe the teenagers were naive enough to buy into the idea a year or two ago, but I also believe that the teenagers are growing up -- and it is also increasingly so that their parents are no longer all that naive either.

    Users of facebook [i]realize[/i] that the site mines the data -- indeed: it almost appears as though that is part of the "attraction" facebook has. It seems to be more of an experiment than enything else.

    It remains to be seen what value there is in mining such data -- and any company that fumbles on privacy issues would almost certainly nosedive as a result. I cannot see how/why such [b]broad[/b] data-mining might be useful -- I would expect that it might make more sense among a more [i]focused[/i] community. But I cannot see [i]any reason[/i] why I would share my profile data with such a [b]wide array of marketing agents[/b] such as the alliance that Google is trying to build.
    new media works
    • miserable failures

      " I also believe that the teenagers are growing up -- and it is also increasingly so that their parents are no longer all that naive either. "

      Kids are anything but grown up. All this self esteem poor little kid BS with immature parents. Online time is fine but limit it to and hour ?.Parents need to be tough and kids need to learn about the real world and it isn?t about social networking on a computer or all that feel good self esteem crap. Get up? get out?. get some rejection?.. thicken that skin. Learn about real social interaction. Too many people living in a fantasy world as it is.
      • hehe

        Good point -- besides: they need to learn how to walk and/or ride a bike because they can probably forget about ever driving a car! ;D
        new media works
    • Don't share that which is not of commercial value to your cost/benefit - NT