Google is getting set to make a splash in the burgeoning social networking space with the introduction on Thursday of OpenSocial.
It is rare for Google to be behind the curve of any Internet trend — much less one that has become nearly mainstream in the last few years. However, it’s making up for lost time by bursting out of the gate. It has already formed relationships with major networking sites and tech vendors poised to develop modules to support OpenSocial.
Much like Google’s other offerings, OpenSocial provides a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for developers to create software that can work in any social network linked to OpenSocial.
Profile information, friend information, a news feed and other features are among those for which Google is providing APIs.
LinkedIn, Friendster, Plaxo, Ning and Google’s own Web site, Orkut, are reportedly among those that have joined the site.
Tech vendors Oracle and Salesforce.com have also indicated their plans to support the platform, according to accounts.
The number of participants, as well as the open platform, will be key to OpenSocial’s success, Charles King, principal of Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld.
“What Google is doing is seizing the high ground. Partners can develop widgets or applications that can be deployed on any or all of the social networks that link to Google,” he said.
Not that Google’s open standards approach is limited to OpenSocial. “There is a larger tug of war in the tech space,” King noted, “with companies like Google lining up against companies like Apple, which tend to keep their products as proprietary as possible.”
In the social networking space, Google’s open approach is a backhanded slap against Facebook — the site most likely to suffer from the competition — which has tended to keep its code proprietary. Some developers have rolled out applications for Facebook, King noted, but only because of the site’s high traffic.
“For many developers, creating an application that only works on one site is not worth the effort,” he remarked.
Social Networking Nuances
To be sure, Facebook could respond proactively, opening its own site more to developers — or even joining Google’s network.
With 50 million users — an increasing number them adults outside the core 18-25 age group — social networking is a venue not to be dismissed lightly.
Unlike, say, the ERP (enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) spaces, social networking is constantly shifting due to these sites’ viral-like popularity and the tendency of their users to shun anything too commercial.
Social networking can be difficult space to crack, King acknowledged, which is likely one reason Google is adopting as open a platform as possible.