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Google launches Open Social. So is there hope for social networks?

There have been lots of rumours about what sort of social network Google is going to create in order to compete with FaceBook et al.

Now the riddle is solved and actually it is no new social network at all. Instead it’s a set of APIs named OpenSocial (press release here). It will be released tomorrow under this URL.

What is the problem we are trying to solve?

Actually there are many problems with social networks today and if you look ahead it might get worse. Advertising is driving most of the sites out there and this means mostly that those sites want to have you on their sites as much as possible. This means the following:

  • no shared authentication scheme is probably going to emerge (like OpenID) and if then everybody wants to be the provider
  • every site has their own message center although we have email these days already
  • every site is sort of closed. Look at FaceBook, applications are FB-only and users cannot really export or share their data outside FB.

and so on. That’s bad for users and it’s bad for developers because they also have to decide for which social network to write applications for.

What is OpenSocial?

Now I can only tell from the press release but it seems to be a common set of APIs for accessing social networking data. According to TechCrunch there will be 3 APIs for a start:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

Then there are hosts which agree to answer to those API calls. Launching partners are among others Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle. How this exactly is going to work and what might be possible needs to be checked later when the API documentation is available.

What does that mean?

That’s the question which is going around the blogosphere now ;-) and there are of course different aspects to it:

Developers might have an easier time to write applications as they only need to write it for one API and not for dozens.

Users might eventually have the chance to have more access to their data but this really needs to be seen.

Platforms except the big ones might have the chance to attract more visitors.

But I think all in all its quite in the open and I’d rather first have a look at the APIs before I comment further on that. It might be a great move but and it might have the potential to open up social networks but it really depends on how this works.

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