OpenSocial is now neutral: What's the business hook here?

OpenSocial is no longer just a Google standard. Microsoft catches social networking religion.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

OpenSocial is no longer just a Google standard. Microsoft catches social networking religion. And most folks are wondering where Facebook will land in this mess. The larger question: Is there a business hook here somewhere?

Yup, I hear the crickets too.

Social networking remains a consumer thing. And to the blogosphere it's an opportunity to work in a Mark Zuckerberg quip, toss in Google as a reference and navel gaze a bit about the "conversation."

But there has to be a corporate use in here somewhere.

Tuesday's news that Yahoo is supporting OpenSocial and Google is stepping away to assure "neutrality" and interconnect social apps is a big deal. OpenSocial can now forge ahead as a real standard. Meanwhile, Microsoft has also entered the social network standard game (boy this all sounds familiar after awhile) and launched its own initiative. The gory details are fortunately rounded up by Techmeme.

I can't help but think that this neutral OpenSocial foundation is a good thing for the enterprise. Perhaps enterprise apps will hook into OpenSocial. Perhaps vendors--beyond Oracle and Salesforce.com--will flick to the effort. Perhaps corporations will become more social.

Until then, however, there isn't much of a huge plan when it comes to businesses.

Last week, I spoke to Joe Kraus, Director of Product Management at Google, about the enterprise implications of OpenSocial. Even though OpenSocial will be "forever free and open" there's a lot of work to do before this becomes even slightly interesting to the enterprise.

Among the highlights of my conversation with Kraus:

  • Social networking is the new black. Most killer apps are social by nature--email, IM and photo sharing for instance. Companies have been slow to adopt these uses--beyond email of course.
  • Social networking isn't a destination site. It will branch out through the entire Web. How will corporations handle this branching out process?
  • Enterprises will adopt social standards like OpenSocial to embed third party applications. The rub: "These applications will need policies around them," says Kraus. Simply put, a lot of social applications are frivolous--throwing sheep, awarding virtual beers (what's the point folks?) and poking people. Surely, there's a business function here somewhere.
  • How do you tighten up social applications? "Social applications are loose in consumer land," says Kraus. "We expect them to become much tighter in enterprise land."
  • What's the model? Consumer social applications are built around advertising. In the corporate world that model won't fly. What exactly will corporations license?
  • Whatever develops in the socialprise will begin with CRM. "Salesforce and Oracle both see the opportunity, but CRM is a social application to begin with," says Kraus.

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