Will Google OpenSocial Change The Internet?

    November 2, 2007

As information came out about OpenSocial, the facts concerning Google’s new networking project seemed to grow less clear, instead of more.  Everyone’s now had a bit of time to look the matter over, though, and consider the implications of the deal.

OpenSocial First off, the facts: after some initial confusion over what companies had joined OpenSocial (different reports carried different names, and vastly different quantities of names), Google itself has stated that Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING are part of the team.

MySpace is, as well, and it’s this addition that made many people take a second look at OpenSocial.  Before, it was a collection of relatively small (and occasionally crappy) also-rans.  With MySpace, OpenSocial became a group that might overpower anything in its way.  And “anything” includes Facebook, at least for the time being.

Yet another word that deserves consideration is “might.”  Facebook had quite a bit of momentum before this all occurred, and I have yet to hear from a single (non-developer) person who became interested in other networks due to the introduction of OpenSocial.

Furthermore, Marshall Kirkpatrick outlines three fairly major concerns about the setup of OpenSocial.  One relates to Google’s place in all of this – is the search giant growing even bigger in a not-entirely-good way?  Complaints about privacy and spheres of influence were already widespread.
Marshall Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick then asks, “Are These Write-Only APIs? . . .  While most APIs tend to be read-only, the OpenSocial APIs might be capable only of allowing widgets to be published from one network to another.  Will one network be able to pull in bio, friend and interest data from another?  That’s not being discussed at all.”  Which makes it possible that this whole development is much less important than most people think.

Lastly, “If This Is Good, Will Official Sanction Kill It?”  Google’s not as Big Brother-ish as some other tech companies, but there’s still the possibility that doing everything according to some predetermined rules and regulations could stifle innovation.

So it very much remains to be seen if OpenSocial will have the intended effect.  But we’re at least getting a better idea of what factors will influence that matter.