The latest noise in the social media arena last week was about Google and their OpenSocial initiative. Basically, OpenSocial will allow third party developers to write applications (aka widgets and gadgets) that will work on all sites that decide to implement OpenSocial.
Logically, the open-source model makes sense. The idea is to harness the collective wisdom, experiences, expertise and requirements of developers – typically the most demanding users of social applications anyway. Using open-source models, software can evolve quickly in the rapidly changing media landscape.
Mash-ups are great examples of how open source has been shown to foster innovation. Check out "Who Is Sick?" for another original Google Maps mash-up that lets people track colds, flus and other bugs in their community. Additionally, Facebook opened their platform to third-party developers last spring and, since then, over 5,000 applications have been created that are currently being used by a collective body of millions of users. Red Bull’s digital version of "Rock Paper Scissors" is my personal fav, but check out Eight Great Facebook Applications for a look at some of Jeff’s.
In August, the latest release of the Joost software contained an API that enables third-party developers to make widgets that work within the Joost platform. In the coming weeks, they are hoping to inspire developers to develop cool new apps for the service by sponsoring developer events in London, Amsterdam and New York.
So, what do we get out of all of this? Obviously, there’s a trend here. It only makes sense that MySpace would follow suit, join up with OpenSocial, and offer the same thing as everyone else. They’ve joined OpenSocial – which means a couple things.
1) This move gives OpenSocial some serious legs. Without the backing of a major social networking like MySpace, the open standard for social networking applications would have floundered and may have ultimately gone the way of the dinosaurs , but in considerably less time (and with less loud roars and munching on small mammals).
2) Soon we will be seeing new dynamic applications that will make the MySpace experience all the better and, hopefully, at least, garner some of the attention the Facebook applications have received in recent months. It’s almost funny, because at the same time that MySpace is joining up with a group that is going to specialize in offering open standards for application development across social networking sites, Facebook is also working to heat up the confrontation between the two social networking sites by debuting their new music application (which directly attacks the backbone of MySpace’s service) and revealing a pretty cool social advertising application that tracks user behavior on a social network and then displays contextually relevant advertisements to them. Facebook is calling this a new way of advertising, but MySpace has already launched an early version of a targeted advertising platform .
OpenSocial will definitely speed up the competition. It’s a race to the finish.