Google goes after Facebook with new OpenSocial social networking API (Updated: Now with more MySpace)
By Jacqui Cheng | Published: November 01, 2007 – 03:13PM CT
MySpace, still holding the blue ribbon in the popularity contest between social networks, has now announced that it will be “joining forces” with Google to support OpenSocial.
“Our partnership with Google allows developers to gain massive distribution without unnecessary specialized development for every platform,” said MySpace CEO and co-founder Chris DeWolfe in a statement. “This is about helping the start-up spend more time building a great product rather than rebuilding it for every social network. We’re pleased to collaborate with Google to establish a landmark standard for social applications.”
MySpace’s reasons for joining the initiative are probably rooted in attempting to slow the mass exodus of its users to Facebook. Whether Facebook will join OpenSocial still remains to be seen, but with its number one competitor now behind it, we aren’t holding our breath.
Google is gearing up to launch OpenSocial, a set of APIs to be used across social networks. No, Google is not ditching Orkut (its own social network that is popular in Brazil but has fizzled out in the US), although Orkut will be involved. Instead, OpenSocial will offer a set of common APIs that its partners—or “hosts”—can use on their networks. This will allow other social networks to get in on the app/widget phenomenon that has become so big at Facebook and give users the opportunity to have a more robust social networking experience.
Any social network can decide to use OpenSocial, and a number of big (and small) names have already joined up for launch. LinkedIn, Orkut, Friendster, Salesforce, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Viadeo, and Oracle are all on board to make use of OpenSocial’s offerings. A number of developers have already joined in, including iLike, Flixter, and Slide. When OpenSocial goes live tomorrow at http://code.google.com/apis/opensocial, however, anyone who wants to develop widgets can do so, including you and me.
The three common APIs that Google will provide include user data, friend information, and activities (when people become friends, people change things, make announcements, etc.). Additionally, Google will provide developers a live “sandbox” in which to test their apps on Orkut, which is already live at http://sandbox.orkut.com (although there’s not much there yet). Of course, here is where Google’s scheme will force developers to join (or rejoin, as the case may be) Orkut, in hopes that they might even stick around. It does look and function a lot differently than it did back in the olden days, after all.
One OpenSocial partner, Ning, is already pretty excited about the prospect of having apps available in the same way that Facebook does. “This is very, very good for the web. Open Social is the kind of standard that web developers love, and can easily use,” Ning (and Netscape) cofounder Marc Andreessen wrote on his blog. “We will aggressively support Open Social in every conceivable way.”
There are some criticisms of OpenSocial, however. Analyst David Card at Jupiter Research points out that there are some major players noticeably missing from the list of launch participants, such as Amazon, eBay, and Microsoft. Not to mention MySpace and Yahoo—as Card puts it, “the list of participants includes seemingly everybody but those that matter.” OpenSocial’s success will ultimately depend upon whether Google can get other major players to join in after launch, either as hosts, or developers, or both. If not, then OpenSocial may end up going the way of Orkut—a good idea that fizzled out in the shadow of stronger competitors.