Analysis of IT news

Friday, November 02, 2007

News Item: Google announces an open API geared at social networking sites

News Item: Google announced an open API geared at social networking sites. Named OpenSocial, the goal is to help developing applications that will work on all the social networking sites that support OpenSocial. At the time of the announcement, over a dozen sites have agreed to support that platform: MySpace, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Friendster and many others. Not surprisingly, Google's own networking site, Orkut, is among the partners.

Analysis: this move is widely seen as an attempt from Google to rally as many social networking sites as possible against FaceBook. The latter hasn't embraced OpenSocial, which is not surprising considering that 1) Microsoft acquired 1.6% of the company - and probably signed some exclusive contracts - days ago 2) FaceBook has little incentive to see all the 3rd party applications developed for its site ported to other less successful sites.

After having failed to establish itself in the social networking market with Orkut, Google tries to maneuver around the challenge by being a key supplier for as many networking sites as possible. OpenSocial, like any open standards, can change the name of the game. On the one hand, it helps promote the development of applications for such sites. On the other hand, it erodes some competitive advantages of those sites. Why so?

First of all, by embracing OpenSocial, a social networking site benefits from all the applications developed on this platform. But so does the competition. If it is a good thing for a site like LinkedIn which is lacking applications and can fear the rise of FaceBook, it is not for the front runner (present of future) which already has a lot of applications.

Second, an open application platform might mean it is easier to transfer contacts from one site to another. The API indeed provides some access to one's contacts. One of the main barriers that prevents users from jumping from site to site is to have to recreate all their contacts. If an application can at least find if they've already signed up / let you know when they join / invite them for you, then moving to the new social networking site of year is much less painful.

Now, several things could hamper the development of OpenSocial:

1) An endorsement is just a promise. Future will tell if the sites who have endorsed OpenSocial will actually support the platform, and if the platform is designed well enough for applications to be truly portable.

2) Google so far has been used to have "automatic mass partnerships": millions of anonymous Websites that embed Google Maps or Google Ads through an automatic process. Having to deal with a small number of high-profile sites is rather new for the company.

3) It remains to be seen if Google will resist the temptation of favoring Orkut at the expense of the other sites embracing OpenSocial, which could undermine its credibility.

4) The OpenSocial coalition regroups very different social networking sites. LinkedIn is for professional purposes only, at the polar opposite from MySpace. Some applications developed for one type of site might not be welcome on another type of site.

1 Comments:

  • Cette annonce va dans le sens de ce qu'on attend depuis des années : que le Web soit accessible comme une plate-forme avec les API qui rende ça possible.
    Il n'est guère étonnant que cela vienne de Google et je suis assez confiant pour la suite : le but de Google est de fédérer et de tirer les bénéfices "périphériques".
    Vouloir favoriser un service au détriment de tous les autres, ce serait briser la logique de cet "écosystème"...

    By Blogger Lefebvre, at 11:34 AM  

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