Google’s OpenSocial Opens New DoorsPosted on November 5th, 2007 No comments
I’m a big fan of Facebook’s API since it started my Scrabulous addiction, but I’ve always found it a little frustrating that I could only use Facebook Apps with other Facebook members. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone is in Facebook yet and some never will be.
Google’s API is different from Facebook’s in that it lets people create widgets that share data between a large group of social networks (and soon, according to its FAQ, any web site). I think this is more true to the spirit and promise of the Internet. Assuming the API is everything it’s chalked up to be, I predict wild popularity. Who knows? Eventually even Facebook may support it. We still need to delve into the details about OpenSocial ourselves, but I’m happy to see that it uses the same basic methods of Google Gadgets, which we’re also experimenting with.
A lot of people will initially be creating OpenSocial apps for large, international social networks such as MySpace, LinkedIn — and OK, I admit it, even Google’s “we’re big in Brazil” Orkut (more on that below). But since I work for a company that has its own locally-focused social networks, I’m seeing some other opportunities which may or may not be supported (so if anyone from Google is reading this, take this as a focus group of one!)
It seems like there are some obvious opportunities for us to knit users’ various profiles, data and contributions together, both internally and with other participating networks. Perhaps we could even create local social aggregators that pull people and content of local importance into one page that exists on potentially hundreds or thousands of different social networking sites.
We’re a little strange in Bakersfield in that we have 9 social networks and more on the way. We know that users of those sites also use Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and others. They go through the trouble of setting up local profiles because they meet people who live where they do, and they feel an affinity with one or more local brands. We even observe them signing into more than one of our own social networks and posting the same content in an effort to reach more local people. Bloggers do this more than anyone. We’ve never measured how many people “double dip” in this way but if I had to guess I’d say it was around 5 percent of the most active participants.
We’re guilty of this ourselves, as we even go so far as to set up profiles for each brand in MySpace (here’s one for Bakotopia, and another for Newtobakersfield), and include links of interest back to our local brands. Local MySpace users thus start by becoming friends of a local MySpace page, then click a content link to find themselves in a more focused site based in Bakersfield which they then also join. They don’t leave MySpace, but they remain engaged in the Bakersfield-based community they joined. And we’re fine with that.
Knowing that people move between social nets in this way, it just makes sense to “open the borders” and create a more streamlined experience. A few years ago it would have been seen as counter-intuitive to make it easy for another site to “steal” information from your user’s database. Now, I think more people may say the opposite. If you don’t make it convenient for users to move their own information that they shared with each other to the universe of other social sites that are part of their lives, they will gravitate toward those that do and forget about those that don’t.
If Google makes it easier to do this, we’re in. I’ll look forward to when Google opens the OpenSocial API to any site, versus only the hallowed few international players. They promise to do this on their FAQ.
(Side note: I also have to wonder if Google went this route because Orkut never took off in the U.S. and is biggest in Brazil, which is pressuring it to crack down on certain content. What better way to launch a more relevant social network than to create a standard for open sharing that they control, then aggregate everything? OK, I’ll take off my Conspiracy Brother hat now