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November 06, 2007

Open Social Association Pt. 1

Perhaps you've heard that Google has set its sights on eroding facebook's growing dominance of social networking sites (SNSs) by introducing a new initiative called Open Social. Some background. I don't claim to be an expert on this, someone please set me straight if I go out of bounds.

Microsoft recently purchased a 1.6 percent stake in SNS darling facebook for $240 million. This investment puts facebook's market valuation at $15 billion (YouTube, by comparison, was acquired by Google for a mere $1.6 billion). Facebook is adding a million users per week. How have they been able to accomplish this?

The experts suggest that much of facebook's success is based on a simple premise: allowing third parties to pass their data through facebook's pages, so that users can interact with the information at facebook. For example, on my facebook profile, you can see which radio stations I listen to at Pandora, or who I've Super-Poked. Super-Poke and Pandora are not facebook's subsidiaries, but third party applications that can talk to facebook through their proprietary programming interface.

What Google has done is create an open source programming interface to rival facebook's proprietary one. Open sourcing the programming interface will allow thousands of prospective third party applications to write one program that will pass their data to hundreds of thousands of SNSs like Orkut, Ning and LinkedIn (realize that one Open Social early adopter, Ning, hosts over 115,000 social networks).

The experts suggest that in the short term, the third party application developers will write programs to support both facebook and Open Social. They also speculate that the majority of third party developers may eventually favor Open Social over facebook's proprietary system because it will allow them to reach more social networks and potentially more users with one program. There is also speculation that facebook might be forced to jump on the Open Social bandwagon and support it over their own interface.

What does this mean for associations? Stay tuned.

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