Sunday, November 04, 2007

A One-Two Punch By Google

On Thursday morning here, I reported that Microsoft had purchased a stake in Facebook and that Google had responded
by announcing a new technology they are calling OpenSocial.
Google's new common standard will make it easier for devel-
opers to write applications that can work across different social networks. Google initially announced twelve social networking
or developer partners.

Since my post, the Los Angeles Times (LAT) reported on Friday that giant MySpace--the #1 social network--will become one of OpenSocial's partners using the new technology:

The standard is a boon for small outfits, which no longer need to customize their programs for each site. A developer could, for example, create a software widget that would let MySpace users book travel plans, and put that widget on other participating sites as well.

The alliance is a counterpunch to the momentum of fast-growing Facebook, which has been fueled by thousands of new programs added by developers since the Palo Alto-based social network opened up its site in May.

I went back to my favorite website for statistics, Compete, to find the attached chart, which lists the top social networking websites as of April, 2007:

Of the top ten social networking websites listed above, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 and Friendster have already signed on as Google partners.

The LA Times points out that Microsoft's deal with Facebook and Google's aligning with MySpace "now pits two of the largest five U.S. companies by market value squarely against each other on yet another front. 'Everybody is lining up, picking sides and buying weapons,' analyst Rob Enderle said. 'This is going to be bloody for a while. The battle for the social networking space is going to be hard fought'."

One interesting item. The Times article indicated that "Google said all social networks had been invited to take part in the OpenSocial network. 'Nobody is excluded,' Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said. But a Facebook spokeswoman said the company had not been briefed."

I suspect this is a case of parsing the word "briefed." I can't imagine a scenario in which Google executives, who were hotly vying with Microsoft to buy a stake in Facebook, would not have tried to sweeten the pot for Facebook by saying, "Hey, we've got this neat technology we're getting ready to unveil, and you'd have first crack at it." Methinks Facebook is being less than honest.

MySpace currently boasts 110 million users. Although Facebook only has 50 million users currently, its momentum is stronger. It has been growing at a rate of a million users a week according to the LA Times. One of the reasons it has been growing so fast is that it offers a host of free software programs to its users.

"But Facebook's approach is in stark contrast to the one taken by Google and its partners. Facebook requires developers to use its proprietary software language to write programs. With Google's OpenSocial, developers now have the option of using a common language for many social networks. The biggest Facebook devel-
opers, including Slide, RockYou, iLike and Flixter, have all said they plan to do so." (LAT)

One thing I'm certain of. These are only the opening salvos in the Social Networking Wars.

Stay tuned for more...

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