Well, there it is. TechCrunch reported it first (but everyone else has the same scoop!). Google is now revealing its social networking plans. Under the projectname OpenSocial, Google will launch a new set of APIs that application developers can use across social networks. This is definitely good news for the application developers. Instead of having to invest in yet another markup language or platform API they can do it all with one API. Very smart Google. It also matches a lot of the speculations I had on their strategy. As Mathew Ingram points out very nicely, Google has created the one ring that binds them all.
But let us not forget what that “one ring” was about. The real power of it lies in the hands of the creator, not in the hands of the one that wears the ring! Of course Facebook and MySpace have figured out that one for themselves, so they won’t be inclined any soon to join this Google blow to their kneecaps. I’m watching John Battelles take on this, as I always like his analysis.
It does take away a lot of the hype around the attempt of Facebook to launch SocialAds (here and a good analysis here). If Google can claim this central position (and they certainly have the capabilities for it) then Facebook’s attempts to leverage their closed network of approx. 50Mln profiles will be completely wiped away by the “We have access to approximately ALL Internet users worldwide” Google effort.
But what about the user. Will he benefit in the end? I have written a lot about flaws in web 2.0 and some of my wishes to correct them. It remains to be seen if he actually benefits. For example, I haven’t seen anything on privacy in the leaked Google plans. That will be an interesting one, especially if Google gets access to not only web pages and user profiles, but might also be able to leverage my interactions. A scary thought indeed, unless I get to control my own privacy. But the greatest threat to the user in my opinion is whether these Google plans will increase ad pressure on the web user. I am not a big fan of the advertisement model that currently is used as the mainstream web 2.0 business model. It inherently creates walled gardens, limits my options as a user and provides me with often unwanted confrontations with advertisers.
Having said all this I still think the world is better off with Google introducing these OpenSocial plans. It will scare the hell out of current successful but walled garden platforms like Facebook and MySpace. it will fuel an explosion of new and more open innovations. That is definitely beneficial to the user. But a warning is in place for Google. It only took a 3 ft small hobit and a lot of will power to end the domination of the ring that tried to rule them all!