Google and OpenSocial to Fight Facebook

The Internet just got more interesting. GigaOM and the New York Times report that Google tomorrow will lead an “alliance of companies” in announcing OpenSocial, a set of standards allowing developers to create applications across multiple social networks including Orkut, LinkedIn, and Friendster, among others, and for companies like Salesforce and Oracle.

OpenSocial is a direct strike against Facebook’s relatively closed open platform: applications written for that site don’t directly translate to working on others. I might go so far as to note OpenSocial could be considered an example of the emerging semantic web, for its open and collaborative properties and because it will likely lead to the freeing of user data (Zuckerberg and Facebook social graph, take note). Om Malik writes:

OpenSocial attacks Facebook where it is the weakest (and the strongest): its quintessential closed nature. Several Facebook developers have groused that a special Facebook-only mark-up language makes the task of writing Facebook apps tougher.

The New York Times notes:

By teaming with others, Google hopes to create a rival platform that could have broad appeal to developers. A person briefed on the plans said the sites in the alliance had a combined 100 million users, more than double the size of Facebook.

An audience double the size of Facebook means twice the potential ad revenue for developers, and the broad audiences of the alliance companies means more diverse targeting opportunities for advertisers. Though it’s hard to imagine apps that would have the universal appeal to take off across every social network in this group, there is enough overlap in these audiences (LinkedIn and Salesforce, Orkut and hi5), that a single app could be relevant across multiple sites. What’s a little strange is that MySpace, which has a massive advertising partnership with Google, doesn’t appear to be on the list of participants. TechCrunch has more details about how OpenSocial will work, noting, “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.”

TechCrunch also notes that there’s no word yet on if/how advertising will be implemented across OpenSocial applications. It’s hard to see it not being implemented, as OpenSocial is just another opportunity for Google to dominate the Internet advertising space.

Leave a Reply