OpenSocial: Google’s Answer To Facebook?

OpenSocial, led by Google
The NY Times today publishes an article announcing Google’s answer to Facebook (found via Tara Hunt). It would have been announced tomorrow evening but the story leaked early. Is this the announcement that had been promised for next week by Google, or is it the first stage of a larger set of developments to integrate more of Google’s services into a social context? Marc Canter writes this is indeed the announcement planned for next week and has more to say on the subject as well. Techcrunch has more details on what it is all about.
Starting tomorrow an alliance of companies led by Google plans to begin introducing a common set of standards to allow software developers to write programs for Google’s social network, Orkut, as well as others, including LinkedIn, hi5, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning. I am intrigued to see Ning, LinkedIn and Friendster in there, don’t care much about Plaxo which I have always viewed as a spam source to be frank.
OpenSocial is to be the name of this initiative, which is to be compatible across all platforms.
Of course ‘setting a standard’ is not an easy thing to do. Calling it a standard does not make it so. Also because MySpace and Meebo e.g. have announced similar initiatives after Facebook opened up their API’s to third party application developers last May. On the other hand, more companies being involved than just Google is a good sign. And we need more openness. Because we don’t want to be locked into a platform. My network is not Facebook’s or Google’s or whoever’s but mine and my buddies’ network.
Also steps like these mean that finally platform’s start to get that the data I put into their platforms is just a map of part of my social network and context, but it’s not the network itself. (Things like Facebook saying I have 100+ friends is rubbish. They don’t know how many friends I have. They know that I have acknowledged links to 100+ people in their platform, because those are the people I know that chose to hang out there)
So, although we haven’t seen anything yet, I think this is another step towards a more social net for us all. Openness is now becoming the point of competition. This means that if you don’t open up your platform now you’re not allowed to play anymore much longer.
More on the OpenSocial API will be available from Thursday on Google’s OpenSocial page. (now a 404 error)