Google will officially join the club of social software development platform providers Nov. 1, when it unveils a set of application programming interfaces that will allow programmers to write social applications that will work on LinkedIn, Friendster and other social networking sites.
OpenSocial is designed to help programmers build applications that reach more of the 400 million users of social networks than they would under the original open developer model, Google product manager Joe Kraus told eWEEK Oct. 31.
The Mountain View, Calif., search vendors initiative is an answer to the launch of Facebooks highly successful developer platform, on top of which 7,000 applications have been built since the social networking site launched it May 24.
Facebook, of Palo Alto, Calif., gives developers access to its users profiles so they can build applications that work on Facebook, but this model is limiting because programmers have to use different APIs to build software for the other social networking communities.
Read more here about Facebook opening up its developer platform.
Google is going the extra mile by enabling programmers to write applications for multiple social networks under three APIs, which will offer access to a users profile and their friends, and the ability to let their friends know that activities have taken place.
In this learn-once, write-anywhere scenario, developers can tailor their application to run on any Web site enabled by OpenSocial.
In addition to Googles own Orkut social site, roughly a dozen partners have signed up for OpenSocial, including LinkedIn, hi5.com, iLike, Friendster and Ning. All told, the sites comprise over 100 million users, or roughly double the Facebook user base.
"The distribution message is really useful for developers in getting their applications spread across multiple sites," Kraus said.
In a twist from what many experts expected, Google has also lured SAAS (software as a service) provider Salesforce.com and business software giant Oracle to the OpenSocial fold.
Kraus said that while social computing has been considered a consumer phenomenon to date, business is by nature a social practice, predicated on relationships. Salesforce.com wants its developers to be able to build "social extensions" to Salesforce.com, Kraus said.
The launch of OpenSocial fans the flames between Google and Facebook, which look like real rivals with each passing day. Googles move comes a week after Microsoft announced that it won an extension as the exclusive ad provider for Facebook, in which the Redmond, Wash., software giant also took a $240 million stake.
To read more about Facebook snubbing Google for Microsoft, click here.
IDC analyst Rachel Happe said Google has found partners that are also feeling the pinch from Facebook and need to take aggressive methods to continue to grow. Collectively, they provide immense access to users and data about users.
"I think the Google & Friends model will be appealing, but Im not sure it will necessarily take market share away from Facebook, although it will enable new activity and reach new customers," Happe told eWEEK. "I dont think its zero sum at this point, since the market is growing so quickly."
Happe also said OpenSocial may be the harbinger of standards for social networking sites.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.