There’s nothing like a successful company with a near monopoly to force the software industry to come up with standards. Or in this case, as in many others, force it’s competitors to band together and call what they are doing the standard because more than one vendor supports it.
From TechCrunch’s article Details Revealed: Google OpenSocial(To Launch Thursday we learn
Google wants to create an easy way for developers to create an application that works on all social networks. And if they pull it off, they’ll be in the center, controlling the network.
What They’re Launching
OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:
- Profile Information (user data)
- Friends Information (social graph)
- Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)
Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google won’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.
Similar details are available from folks like Om Malik and Marc Andreesen.
This is a brilliant move. I’ve blogged on multiple occassions that the disparate widget platforms in social networking sites is a burden for widget developers and will lead to a “winner takes all” situation because no one wants to support umpteen different platforms. If enough momentum gains around OpenSocial, then three things will happen
- Widget developers will start to favor coding to OpenSocial because it supports multiple sites as well as targeting the Facebook platform
- Eventually Facebook platform developers will start asking Zuckerburg and company to support OpenSocial so they only need to worry about one code base (kinda, it won’t be that easy)
- Other companies with proprietary widget platforms or plans to create one will bow down to the tide and adopt OpenSocial
Of course, this requires a popular social networking site with a wide audience (e.g. MySpace) to adopt the platform before we see this kind of traction.
However this is the only thing Google could have done that makes any sense. Building a clone of the Facebook platform like some social networking sites planned would have been dumb because that would be the tail wagging the dog. Similarly building a competing proprietary platform would also have been dumb due to the winner takes all problem I mentioned earlier.
This is the only move that has a chance of actually giving their anti-Facebook platform a chance of being successful.
I wonder how my coworkers in Windows Live are going to take this news?
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