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Google is set to launch OpenSocial which will be a centralized platform where you can create an app which will then be usable on the major social networking sites like Ning, Hi5, LinkedIn, Orkut etc.

It’s a form of web app syndication or WAS. Google has managed to attract some key facebook companies like Slide. The OpenSocial platform is like one ring to bind them all.

The combined number users of the initial OpenSocial partners is twice that of Facebook. Since it is an open platform it could easily send the exclusive facebook api to the platform graveyard. Facebook will probably end up jumping on the OpenSocial bandwagon is my guess. Get access to 100 million users. They can use your apps, build your content, and your community.

Not the end of Facebook though because Facebook still has 50 million users. Facebook + OpenSocial = 150 million users.


This is the exact same concept as the Facebook platform, with two huge differences:

  • With the Facebook platform, only Facebook itself can be a “container” — “apps” can only run within Facebook itself. In contrast, with Open Social, any social network can be an Open Social container and allow Open Social apps to run within it.
  • With the Facebook platform, app developers build to Facebook-proprietary languages and APIs such as FBML (Facebook Markup Language) and FQL (Facebook Query Language) — those languages and APIs don’t work anywhere other than Facebook — and then the apps can only run within Facebook. In contrast, with Open Social, app developers can build to standard HTML and Javascript, and their apps can then run in any Open Social container.

If you recall how I previously described the Facebook platform as “a dramatic leap forward for the Internet industry”, you’ll understand why I think Open Social is the next big leap forward!


Are people really going to maintain multiple sets of front-end pages for their web sites for Facebook, Open Social, etc.?

I think so, yes. I think any web site going forward that wants maximum distribution across the largest number of users will have a single back-end, and then multiple sets of front-end pages:

  • One set of standard HTML and Javascript pages for consumption by normal web browser.
  • Another set of HTML and Javascript pages that use the Open Social API’s Javascript calls for consumption with Open Social containers/social networks.
  • A third set of pages in FBML (Facebook Markup Language) that use Facebook’s proprietary APIs for consumption within Facebook as a Facebook app.
  • Perhaps a fourth set of pages adapted for the Apple iPhone and/or other mobile devices.

So here’s the low down. What OpenSocial API does


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.

Which social networks are involved with the OpenSocial API?

The initial Open Social partners, more than twice as many users as Facebook has today.

What’s cool is that its easy for Facebook Developers to quickly transfer their current apps to OpenSocial.


Google partners supporting the OpenSocial initiative include social networks such as: Ning, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster and others; and Facebook and social web application studios such as: RockYou, Slide and others.


Google has managed to attract some of the key Facebook app companies Flixster, Rock You, Slide, and iLike to work with them on OpenSocial. The lure of expanding their widget base to other Social platforms such as hi5 and XING, perhaps was too hard for them to resist.

Ilike Quote from ShoppersStop

Creators of third-party applications are understandably optimistic. “In a lot of ways this is the greatest thing that could’ve happened to us,” said Ali Partovi, CEO of social music site iLike. “We’ve already been very successful with that strategy on Facebook, but then spreading to every other social network out there without an open standard would be much more expensive, harder to justify, and harder to prioritize.”

What Plaxo had to say:

Oracle and are also supporting Google’s OpenSocial efforts, which indicates that they have plans to add social networking elements to their application platforms.

Plaxo emailed a statement about OpenSocial this evening, getting ahead of the stampede:

“Dynamic profiles redefine what users should expect in terms of how they can represent themselves in a social or business network,” said Todd Masonis, Co-Founder and VP of Products for Plaxo. “We believe that users should have full control over what they share with whom – and that the catalog of widgets that they can choose from should be as open and diverse as the web itself. We are excited to support in dynamic profiles any application written to Google’s just–launched OpenSocial APIs. ”
So far not Myspace or Facebook. Will Google force their hand if the platform is a massive success?

Problems that OpenSocial fixes


  1. I want to be able to export my friends and contact information to any other service I choose. Lets be real. The network does not OWN that data.
  2. Export my (multimedia) content to any other service I choose. Heck, if I want to burn a CD of all content I got or sent I can’t even do it.
  3. I have friends and contacts on many different networks. I want a lifestream service that allows me to see all of their activity.
  4. In relation to point 3, I want to be able to message any of my contacts, without having to go to a specific network.
  5. In relation to point 4. I want to have presence information available over all networks.
  6. I want to be able to write or publish content to multiple platforms in one action.
  7. In relation to point 6. If I get the same entry across multiple networks or platforms that’s hardly efficient. So some intelligence to make sure I get the message on the most convenient way.
  8. I want to be able to follow interesting topics regardless of where the conversation is taking place.
  9. I want to be “on”as soon as I am connecting to the world. What do I mean by that?
  10. I want excellent and easy to use privacy controls to go with points 1-9.

What does OpenSocial mean for Google?

Dan Farber

This openness is part of what Vic Gundotra, Google’s head of developer programs, meant when he said last week, “In the next year we will make a series of announcements and spend hundreds of millions on innovations and giving them away as open source.”

He explained the newfound openness as more than altruism: “It also makes good economic sense. The more applications, the more usage. More users means more searches. And, more searches means more revenue for Google. The goal is to grow the overall market, not just to increase market share.”

As cited above, OpenSocial is part of Google’s quest to increase usage of the Web. More applications can mean more searches and ad searches. You could also expect some new advertising services based on tapping into the OpenSocial APIs that work across all compliant social networks.

What does OpenSocial mean for Facebook and Facebook Developers?

First the flaw of the facebook platform.

Anil Dash

It’s not true to say that Facebook is the new AOL, and it’s oversimplification to say that Facebook’s API is the new Blackbird, or the new Rainman. But Facebook is part of the web. Think of the web, of the Internet itself, as water. Proprietary platforms based on the web are ice cubes. They can, for a time, suspend themselves above the web at large. But over time, they only ever melt into the water. And maybe they make it better when they do.

The Facebook ramnifications.

Dan Farber

Facebook has a lot of wind behind its sails, but OpenSocial will cause developers to rethink their priorities. Developing OpenSocial applications will be easier than creating Facebook apps and will work across different social networks.

This could create some issues for Facebook, which is rumored to be cooking up a targeted ad service that can follow its members across the Web. And, Google, taking a page from Microsoft, has some confidence that over time it can build or buy its ways into a leading social network. Google will try to have its cake and eat it too.

And what OpenSocial means for Facebook Developers.


Today’s Facebook app developers just got very good news — they will be able to take all of the work they did to build their Facebook apps and create Open Social versions of their apps very easily… and by so doing, get access to a huge new pool of users — as many as 100 million users just via the initial Open Social partners, more than twice as many users as Facebook has today.

As an app developer, there’s no real reason to choose between Facebook and Open Social. It’s easy to do both. You’ve already put in most of the effort — creating a new set of front-end HTML and Javascript pages is almost trivial, and that’s all you need to do to have your app “port” to Open Social and work within Open Social containers like Ning, Orkut, Hi5, and LinkedIn.

Dan Faber

Slide is the leading Facebook developer, claiming 63 million applications (SuperPoke, Top Friends, Slideshows, Guestbooks, SkinFlix and FunPix) installed. “So far we have ported several of our most popular applications from Facebook and MySpace,” Max Levchin, founder and CEO of Slide told me. However, consumers won’t get to play with those applications until December or January.

“OpenSocial is great. The user benefit is a shorter cycle before they see cool new apps and ways to spend more time on social networks independent of the network they are on,” Levchin explained. “The most powerful implication is for developers. They’ll have less worry about in terms of complexity and back end integration.”

Facebook still has 50 million users. Facebook + OpenSocial API = 150 million users.

Update: Myspace look to have joined OpenSocial API and already have a flixster app running through it. So thats another 50 million users from Myspace in the OpenSocial user base.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By OpenSocial API on 01 Nov 2007 at 9:36 pm

    […] leaked press release revealed MySpace and Bebo are joining up with Google’s OpenSocial API along with Six Apart, Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and […]

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