Cyberdude: OpenSocial, a masterstroke by Google
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Cyberdude: OpenSocial, a masterstroke by Google

Google announces the release of OpenSocial - a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web - for developers of social applications, reports Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2007 15:36 IST

Google is back with a bang would be an understatement seeing the impact its new application can create on the internet especially on social networking sites and maybe even deciding the future of the world wide web. Is this simply the way collaborative innovation is going to be in future? Or is this a reaction to Microsoft getting into its domain by investing into Facebook? Or is this a way of telling Microsoft and others to layoff in a space ruled by Google? Or maybe all the three? To understand this first a little background.

What OpenSocial Does

Google on Saturday announced the release of OpenSocial -- a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web -- for developers of social applications and for websites that want to add social features. According to Google "OpenSocial will unleash more powerful and pervasive social capabilities for the web, empowering developers to build far-reaching applications that users can enjoy regardless of the websites, web applications, or social networks they use."
OpenSocial - the new face of internet?

Facebook, termed as the next big thing on the internet, has for sometime had applications which users can add and use. Noteworthy is these applications have recently become immensely popular with some of them being sold on sites like eBay amongst others.

How OpenSocial is different is this the first time that multiple social networks have been made accessible under a common API to make development and distribution easier and more efficient for developers. In others words the influence of Google now spans over not just Orkut but also giants like MySpace, Bebo, iLike, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Oracle, Flixster, RockYou, and Slide and more. In others other words Google's masterstroke has got practically anybody who matters on the internet under its influence.

The influence of Google can be gauged from the fact what Aber Whitcomb, CTO of MySpace had to say of this partnership "We're all citizens of a larger Web-no network is an island onto itself." He added "We look forward to continuing to develop great technology with Google and all of the OpenSocial participants. It's exciting that social networks are getting social with each other."

An island called Facebook

Aber is absolutely right when he says "We're all citizens of a larger Web-no network is an island onto itself." But what about Facebook? Does it also figure in Google scheme of things? When I posed this question to Vinay Goel, head of products, Google India, he had a similar answer like Aber about "common API to make development and distribution easier and more efficient for developers". Till such time Facebook comes in the Google scheme of things Facebook, the would be next big thing on the internet has suddenly turned small.

OpenSocial - The added benefits

OpenSocial is built upon Google Gadget technology, so you can build a great, viral social app with little to no serving costs. With the Google Gadget Editor and a simple key/value API, you can build a complete social app with no server at all. Of course, you can also host your application on your own servers if you prefer. In all cases, Google's gadget caching technology can ease your bandwidth demands should your app suddenly become a worldwide success.

Noteworthy webmasters can use this technology for exposure to target market practically free of cost. In other words a successful app can result in tens and thousands of visitors flowing to your website. According to Ali Partovi, CEO of social music service iLike "Thanks to the broad adoption of the OpenSocial platform, iLike can now enable artists to reach an additional 200 million music enthusiasts across the wide range of websites that have adopted this new platform."

He adds, "Building upon the 15 million music fans we already reach through other channels, the OpenSocial platform helps us pursue our vision of becoming the broadest artist-fan communication platform on the web, without having to write custom software for multiple websites."

Microsoft - Wisdom or Desperation

The battle of dominance is at its peak and tech giants Microsoft and Google are battling it out. Google dominates our online experience and Microsoft has so far ruled our offline/desktop experience. As connectivity gets pervasive the offline-online lines are fading and creating tension between the companies. Google has continued to attack Microsoft in places where few would dare. Noteworthy is the attack on Microsoft's cash cow MS Office.

Microsoft on the other hand is trying to get onto the online experience through Office LIVE amongst other initiatives. Microsoft's desperation to get onto the online user experience can be gauged from the fact it recently paid $240 million for a stake that values Facebook at an astounding 150x of revenue - $15 billion dollars. Google has now struck back in a way so hard by getting almost anybody who matters under its influence that Facebook billed as the next big thing on the internet suddenly seems dwarfed.

Has Microsoft goofed up on Facebook or has it been a wise investment? Nobody really knows but Robin Harris in Zdnet termed it rather well "Did Google bluff Microsoft into over paying for Facebook?" Says Robin "Was Google ever serious about Facebook, or did they just want to see Microsoft invest more of their battered prestige in another closed platform?"

The Last Word

After a series of mediocre to bad innovations Google's muse is back. OpenSocial has the potential of getting innovation onto a level unparalleled ever before in recent history. Apparently as I write this there is news of the first OpenSocial Application hack within 45 minutes. Consider it good news first day, first show and already an attempt to hack, gauge it as popularity. Google's popularity has been built on its openness, wisdom and innovation of masses. It's nice to see Google back in form, again.

Puneet Mehrotra writes on business and technology issues Email him on

First Published: Nov 04, 2007 15:27 IST