OpenSocial’s Importance Open To Debate

    October 31, 2007

Google’s products tend to be hit-or-miss affairs – compare the main search engine to Google Catalogs, if you will.  Now, as the release of OpenSocial approaches, opinions seem to be split as to whether it’ll arrive with a bang or as a bust.

OpenSocial's Importance Open To Debate
OpenSocial’s Importance Open To Debate

On the one hand, this is the sort of thing that developers have been asking for with decreasing amounts of patience.  Michael Arrington writes, “The timing of OpenSocial couldn’t be better. . . .  Someone had to build a system to streamline this . . . ”  And OpenSocial will put Google in a position to compete with Facebook and MySpace.

The quality of that competition is what’s debatable, however.  OpenSocial will count LinkedIn, Ning, hi5, iLike, and Slide among its partners, and this group has failed to impress some onlookers.  Adding Orkut (Google’s own network) to the mix doesn’t help matters much; Chris Williams calls the companies a “gaggle of social networking also-rans.”

It also remains to be seen what sort of financial incentive developers will have to embrace OpenSocial.  According to Peter Kafka, “One of the chief appeals of Facebook’s open API is that developers can keep all the ad revenue they generate on the site; we’ve been told effective CPMs for more popular apps can run as high as $20.  Google could certainly offer the same terms . . . but we don’t know if its platform partners are willing or able to be so generous.”

So the success of Google’s new endeavor is not at all assured.  Given another day or so, though, we’ll hopefully begin to learn whether OpenSocial deserves to be associated with Gmail or with the now-deceased Google Answers.