Google Seeks Social Networking High Ground
- By Barbara Darrow
Google's attempt to grab moral high ground in the social networking
development is a step in the right direction, according to industry
Google late last week said it released a set of "open APIs" that
will enable developers to build applications to run across a broad range of
social networking environments.
The advantage of this "OpenSocial"
effort for developers of both consumer and enterprise apps, would be the
theoretical ability to write an application once that could then run across
a wide swath of social networking environments.
backing not only from such social networking powers as LinkedIn, Friendster,
Orkut, Plaxo, and Xing, but from Oracle and Salesforce.com as well. Not among
the names of supporters: Microsoft and FaceBook. Microsoft just bought a
$240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the popular social networking
leader, either outbidding or outfoxing Google, which was also interested in Facebook.
A developer sandbox will soon be online at
http://sandbox.orkut.com to enable developers to start playing with and
testing the APIs, Google said. As of November 1, three APIs, sample code,
documentation and online support were available from the Google OpenSocial
site. With user permission, developers can use the APIs to access user
profile information, friend lists and shared activities to start planning
Developers want volume distribution and portability, so
Google's plan makes sense. There is a huge potential audience among all
those LinkedIn, Plaxo, Orkut users out there, said Dana Gardner, principal
with Inter-Arbor Solutions, a Gilford, NY market analysis firm.
you create a widget or a storefront or commerce site, you don't want it to
run just in FaceBook. You want it at all the sites, just like Crate & Barrel
wants its stores in all the malls," Gardner said. "Social nets can come and
go. Nothing locks you in as a user or a developer. You're not writing to an
operating system but to a social network platform on the Web."
While Microsoft lured developers into the Visual Studio toolset with the
promise of the huge addressable Windows installed base, there is no such
ubiquity in online social networks.
"These social nets popped up like
mushrooms in the spring rain and can disappear just as fast. They are much
more fickle than an operating system, so tools that will let a developer
address a wide variety of them are important," Gardner said.
lot of work needs to be done. "This is important because it's Google and in
the consumer world that's huge. Google hasn't really made a firm or
aggressive answer to the whole social networking phenom--Facebook etc.--so,
when it looks at its assets, why not attack with openness?" said Mike Gotta,
analyst with The Burton Group.
Corporate developers, on the other
hand, will need to see some set of standards and rules, he added. "This may
be open, but there's no standards body, not that standard bodies are a
panacea. If you look at what Jabber has done with XMPP, they have an open
standard. Corporate developers will want to know what the governance body is
behind it, how the standard will evolve, who'll kick the tires, and what
happens if people take the process in a different direction."
the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol used in many instant
Traditional tech players like IBM, Microsoft
and developers within other companies will need to figure out how these APIs
and frameworks comply with security, identity and compliance mandates.
"Those are the kinds of things that tend to spoil the party," Gotta
But, if the social networking rage continues, more corporate
developers will be required to put their applications in front of these new
audiences, Gardner said. That is why OpenSocial bears watching, Gardner