Google has announced the OpenSocial specification, a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites. Websites implementing OpenSocial, include Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.
However, a big player is currently not included; Facebook!
Google's move looks as if it’s squarely aimed at Facebook's importance as a social networking site. However, OpenSocial as the name suggests means that Facebook always has the option to join the group. Then developers will develop on OpenSocial for Facebook and other networks. I would think the spec would actually work in Facebook's favor, as Facebook is the leader with the number of people developing for its social platform, and it seems that Facebook is open to OpenSocial as quoted in this recent article from Wired.
Jim Breyer, a Facebook board member and investor took questions from reporters Peter Kafka (Silicon Alley Insider) and Erick Schonfeld (TechCrunch)
“Despite Google fanboys claiming that Facebook was 'pwned' by OpenSocial, Breyer seems to paint a more even-keeled picture of the situation. Not only is the company open to becoming a partner in Google's OpenSocial platform, but the company's attachment to exclusivity isn't necessarily a deal breaker as the site continues to expands. Breyer seems to imply that this could mean more opening up its own platform, in addition to allowing users to port some of their information out of the walled garden.”
According to TechCrunch, Google may or not have talked to Facebook about the OpenSocial Spec. Brandee Barker, Director of corporate communications at Facebook, said:
"Despite reports, Facebook has still not been briefed on OpenSocial. When we have had a chance to understand the technology, then Facebook will evaluate participation relative to the benefits to its 50 million users and 100,000 platform developers."
Google doesn't have a big social networking site in the United States, so creating the OpenSocial spec makes sense, especially as Facebook is the leading competitor in this space. However, I think the audience is more important than the spec, MySpace joining in is really significant, but if Facebook were to join, I think they would still dominate as they have the lead with the developer community, joining would just mean Facebook would make it easier for its developer community to start with Facebook, and also be on other networks. If you read the comments section of the TechCrunch post, many people commenting suggested that Facebook should not join because they have a competitive advantage at the moment with more developers. To me the advantage would be with Facebook, not Google or the other social networks. The only danger is from social networks that provide better communication navigational structure, something that is a problem with Facebook
Facebook might have the last laugh though; this Marketing Vox quote says it all:
“In mid-October, Facebook released a cryptic invitation for the unveiling of a new ad platform this November 6th. According to John Battelle, it's a contender for AdWords.”
Lastly, here's ComputerWorld's round up on the opinion about OpenSocial across the industry.