Is OpenSocial the beginning of the end for Facebook?

Google and partners (including LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Ning and others) are launching a new open API for interfacing with Social Networks. I’m not going to go into it too much because plenty of people have written about it already but I’ll give a few comments.

If you’re looking for one blog to read to get a feel of OpenSocial before all the gory details come out at Google Code then check out what Marc Andreessen has written. He’s the founder of Ning so clearly has an interest in OpenSocial succeeding but cut through the spin and there’s some valid points.

Where does this leave Facebook? At the moment it’s still the largest social network amongst university students so ignoring it doesn’t make sense. What OpenSocial allows is for developers to avoid vendor lock-in by writing applications for multiple platforms. Where previously there was no clear second choice to base features and implementation around, now there is a large aggregate user base to target. It will help developers to write cleaner code which can more easily be repurposed for new platforms, even alternative interfaces such as mobile phones.

This is also a pretty canny move from Google. Their own social network, Orkut, while big in Brazil has not found a significant following in the major markets. By introducing a system based on standards – the API is based on JavaScript and HTML – they’re lowering the barriers to developers by not requiring them to learn another markup or query language as is the case with Facebook.

Ultimately while this move might be supporting the growth of rival social networks, Google’s dominance and the sheer quantity of data it holds about everyone will enable it to grow Orkut and its other social websites (Documents, Talk, YouTube, Picasa, Blogger, Calendar and the rest all have further scope to become more social).

5 thoughts on “Is OpenSocial the beginning of the end for Facebook?

  1. It was bound to happen sooner or later!

    I’ll be interested to see how long it is before Facebook choose to support Open Social… surely that’s the next obvious step for them?!

  2. Facebook haven’t been as forward as they could be at opening up data about users (although it’s interesting that the data is available – there’s a very interesting Facebook app which lets you export details of friends as a spreadsheet). Market leaders tend to try to protect their competitive advantage and I fear that the temptation to do this with be too strong for Facebook. It’s the kind of thing Microsoft might do, and who recently did a deal with Microsoft…?

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