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.

Unlike Facebook, OpenSocial does not have its own markup language (Facebook requires use of FBML for security reasons, but it also makes code unusable outside of Facebook). Instead, developers use normal javascript and html (and can embed Flash elements). The benefit of the Google approach is that developers can use much of their existing front end code and simply tailor it slightly for OpenSocial, so creating applications is even easier than on Facebook.

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?

Now playing: 50 Cent - All Of Me (Feat. Mary J Blige) (Prod by Jake One)


Wednesday, October 31, 2007 4:25:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The potential to reduce the number of competing Social Network app standards is the immediate obvious consequence. The new lease on life this gives the also-rans is another. But what I find a lot more interesting is to ponder the opportunities a true meta-Social Network can bring in terms of interactions between different networks that support the same API's. Here are thoughts on that just for the business community, there are many more possibilities:
Wednesday, October 31, 2007 8:12:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Only developers seem excited about OpenSocial.
I don't see a reason for Facebook or MySpace users or management to flinch.

The argument that this will be the platform to develop widgets doesn't make sense since there is nothing stopping Microsoft or Yahoo coming up with a similar framework.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 8:34:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
A developer platform announcement should only be relevant to developers. I wonder why you think end users be excited?

Right now, there is no incentive for a widget developer to target a platform that doesn't have a large and engaged audience. That's pretty much MySpace and Facebook in the US. Any social networking platform announcement from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft has to keep that in mind.

Google has attempted to counter this by building a coalition of sites that will support their platform so they can tell developers if you write widgets for us they'll work on Orkut, iGoogle, Ning, etc. This is the only option they had that even has a CHANCE of competing with the Facebook platform for developer mind share.

Whether this actually works depends on who adopts OpenSocial, if there is actually interoperability across sites and if cool applications can be built with it. All of which have little to do with technology and everything to do with marketing and politics.
Friday, November 2, 2007 10:55:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
What I find interesting is how similar the OpenSocial APIs are to the Windows Live Data APIs launched back in May 2007. REST ful APIs, delegated authorization, etc. Very interesting.

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