What happened when Facebook hit the scene? In hopes of becoming Internet on Internet, it did exactly the opposite – it centralized all the services and locked its users within the walled gardens. It was good for members in a way, providing a do-all one-stop. But it also meant that they always had to go to Facebook for all their data, once they were out of it, they were empty handed.
So what does Google do now? Google tried to revive Orkut by aping Facebook, but now it is targetting Facebook’s weakest point, its friction with the service providers. OpenSocial, soon-to-go-live Google’s new API set, lets you develop applications for all the member social networks.
In a nutshell, it is infrastructure for all the other social networks. TechCrunch has more details about what entails in using OpenSocial. Google can now position social networks like Orkut, LinkedIn, Ning and many others against Facebook and MySpace. Also, with its non-proprietary technology, it might appeal more to the service providers. In fact, there are already favorable reviews from some.
Of course the community strength will play a very strong role to make one of these dominant. While Facebook and MySpace might be popular in US, I wonder if the collection of rest of the social networks might beat them elsewhere. Unfortunately this can only be speculation, nothing more than that.
Another point to consider is interoperability. While most of the talk with OpenSocial is about treating the developers better, I cannot help but wonder if it will also add a bit of interoperability between those social networks. It might not be an open protocol, but if the social networks do share the profile data and the friends, this platform can be the channel to carry it with you wherever you go. While Facebook asks you to come to one place for all your data, this might enable you to carry the data wherever you go. It will be interesting to see which one catches up.