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Google Open Social – What does it mean?

Google’s Open Social announcement last week has potentially significant ramifications to marketers trying to tap into the social networks of Facebook, Myspace, and others. First, let me explain what Open Social is and then we’ll go into the “why it matters” part.

Open Social is best explained on the official Google Open Social page and on this terrific “Open Social for Dummies Executives” page. Open Social is a Google-led initiative to bring some open standards to social networks that will allow applications/widgets to work across networks, and possibly utilizing and sharing the data unique to each. The new application standards will have immediate effects.

20 or so companies are on board with Open Social already. This list includes MySpace, Ning, LinkedIn, Friendster, Plaxo,, and Orkut. If you noticed that Facebook is missing from the list then you noticed the very reason that this is big news. Google seems to be intentionally fragmenting the social network business and preventing the dominance of a closed-environment player like Facebook. Google can’t sell ads to Facebook users (now that Microsoft bought those rights) and as more and more developers are devoting their time to building Facebook applications, Google is seeing too many people spending too much of their time away from the Google ad ecosystem (search and iGoogle). So, just when you may have opted to spend some marketing dollars building a cool Facebook app, Google goes and lobs a massive cluster bomb at you.

But you will soon have the opportunity to pay for a killer mini-application that can be developed once and deployed across all those other social networks. Most app developers are expected to develop each application twice – once for Facebook and once for the Open Social consortium. As a marketer, you will probably find better results in the Open Social sites which allow you far greater access to data mining and measurement.

Mark Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and recent co-founder of Ning, is apparently a major proponent of Open Social and Ning appears to have launched the greatest support for Open Social on day 1. Recent comments from tech analysts seems to indicate that Ning has tremendous momentum and a fairly unmatched toolset for creating feature and media-rich social networks.

I also recommend the analysis at Forrester.


One Response to “Google Open Social – What does it mean?”

  1. Hey thanks for linking to us. Just an FYI, I’m now at Forrester and sit right next to Charlene, truly an thought leader in the space.