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Google's Getting Social
On November 1, Google released "OpenSocial", a suite of three APIs (Application Program Interfaces) designed to integrate the user profiles, member networks and custom widgets across social networks. This is a logical and much needed next step designed to merge the Web 2.0 experience and content among complimentary but otherwise mutually exclusive social networks. There's little doubt that Google's intent is to counter Facebook's successful developer platform which was released last May 24 and has already spawned more than 7,000 custom widget applications. There's also not much debate that Google considers Facebook a direct competitor particularly now that Facebook and Microsoft are cozy.
Irrespective of motivation, let me reference my own social networking experience as a case in point. I have a LinkedIn profile with a small but active network. I chose LinkedIn as it has a reputation as the social network for 'business'. I didn't choose Facebook as its primary audience is college students (a crowd younger than mine) or MySpace (as this is my kids crowd). Frankly, I don't know that I have time to participate in more than one social network, and even if I do, I feel a bit shallow creating profiles in every online community. However, my participation would increase if I could link my content and my network membership across multiple social networks. Let me communicate with members of other social networks without having to join those networks and replicate my profile multiple times over. Will OpenSocial provide me this universal community expansion? I don't know but the concept really sounds appealing and Google is betting it will permit programmers to reach the 400 million users of social networks.
Taking the concept a step further, OpenSocial speaks to cross social network development standards. Unlike Facebook, Google is taking a non-proprietary and non-vendor specific technology approach. OpenSocial has been released as three APIs which offer access to social network user profiles and their network of friends. I'm unclear whether Google has taken a lowest common denominator approach or created a more empowering technology. Nonetheless, if gadgets or widgets which today are social network dependent (e.g. a widget developed for Facebook only runs on Facebook) can extend across social networks then of course there value, impact and reach also extends. While today's widgets are admittedly trivial for the most part, their expansion to business settings, Enterprise 2.0 and integration with business software applications (such as CRM and ERP systems) is a foregone conclusion which will further escalate their adoption to a widespread utilization.
The OpenSocial momentum has begun. Several social networks including Friendster, LinkedIn, Hi5, iLike, Ning and Google's own Orkut social site have signed up for OpenSocial. Some skeptics point to Google's prior multiple vendor middle ground GoogleTalk solution. GoogleTalk was a great concept of using open standards to create a universal Instant Messenger that would link all other vendor instant messengers so you weren't forced to create an IM account with multiple vendors in order to communicate with your friends who use multiple vendor solutions. GoogleTalk hasn't taken flight and its adoption is very low at best.
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|This blog is focused on hosted, on-demand or software as a service (collectively SAAS) business solutions. To qualify as a SaaS solution, the service should be offered on a subscription (pay as you go) purchase price, housed in a multi-tenant data center and delivered remotely over the Web to web browsers. Business applications include about any front office or back office business system. Frequently cited business applications include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP) systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems, Manufacturing Systems and Human Resource (HR) systems.|