Google/OpenSocial vs. Microsoft/Facebook

This latest fuss between Google and Microsoft over social networking may be far more important than you think and it may have a direct effect on how you run your enterprise before it's done.

So there they were, Google vs. Microsoft, slugging it out again. This time, to the winner, would go a small percentage of the ownership of the popular social networking site, Facebook. The real prize though was that the winner would get to decide if Facebook would continue to accept advertising only from advertisers working with Microsoft.

And, the winner was… Microsoft!

Now, Google doesnt lose to Microsoft, or anyone else for that matter, very often. So maybe, just maybe, when Google announced today—Halloween—that it was going to offer Internet developers an open system, OpenSocial, to create applications across Web sites—read social networking sites—it was a pure coincidence. Just like, say, it was pure coincidence that soap somehow ends up on your windows tonight.

Seriously, Im sure Google has been working on cross-site applications that will let social sites syndicate content from one site to another for a while now. Even Google cant get a dozen partners, including the social network LinkedIn for business professionals, its own Orkut network and Friendster to all sign up in a few days… Or could they?

No, no, Im sure theyve been working on this for a while. After all, if you look at what Google is trying to do from both a technical and a business viewpoint, OpenSocial fits in perfectly.


To read more about how Microsoft clinched the Facebook deal, click here.

Google wants and needs open systems, and, to a lesser extent, open source. Google makes its moola from selling advertising on everything and anything you can place on the Web. If the systems are open, Google engineers are fast enough and bright enough to find a way to hook an ad to almost anything on the Web. Or, if they cant hook an ad to it, they know how to PageRank it, so that your best chance of finding a site, an application, a friend, what-have-you is via the Google search engine.

If Google can build the open system itself, which is exactly what theyre doing, its even easier for them. By opening it up, they insure that the open-source development process will get the new system up and running as quickly as possible, while at the same time debugging at a rapid rate.

Indeed, if you think about it, this face-off over Facebook, says a lot about both companies. Google wants to open up its advertising. Microsoft—and this is so Microsoft of them—wants to keep the advertising all to themselves.

Take this step further. Right now Microsoft really, really wants you, as a business customer, to buy into SharePoint. And, why shouldnt they? If you really want to get the most from SharePoints Swiss-army knife approach to work collaboration you need to buy— take a deep breath here—BizTalk Server 2006 R2, SharePoint Server, Visual Studio Team System, SQL Server, Server 2003, and Office 2007. Oh, and Exchange. Cant forget Exchange.

To me SharePoint is the epitome of Microsofts extend and embrace strategy. If you buy into it, you have to buy into an expensive complete server to desktop package. Its not quite the same thing as selling your business soul to Redmond, but its close.

Google, on the other hand, says you can just use its open services and applications, like Google Apps Premier and Standard editions to do pretty much everything Microsoft can do for you, with one big difference. With Google, its either free of charge or the company charges you a pittance. Except, of course, Google doesnt have a way for you to integrate work across networks the way SharePoint does… Hmmm… or will it soon with OpenSocial?

After all, Microsoft is already trying to link Web 2.0-type sites with SharePoint and you can use SharePoint across the Internet today. Social networking sites that are integrated with SharePoint are just one more step away. Now that I think of it, Google may have been planning OpenSocial for quite a while now.

This may look to be just another dust-up between Google and Microsoft. It may appear to be just a fight over Web advertising revenues. But I think its more, much more. I think its a fight between whose technology model is going to control the business network, and bigger even than that, whose business model is really going to call the shots in the early 21st century.

The Google/Microsoft war may just be beginning.