So, here is what we know from today's OpenSocial news: Yahoo has joined OpenSocial and forged the OpenSocial Foundation with Google and MySpace. Facebook is not joining, and Microsoft is on the fence, but I'll circle back to that.
Following are some questions left unanswered in the wake of today's conference call:
How exactly will Yahoo, which has smaller social networks like Flickr and del.icio.us, but doesn't really have a large social networking presence like MySpace or Facebook, leverage the OpenSocial APIs on Yahoo?
The possibilities here run deep (such as data exchange between OpenSocial Apps and Flickr and del.icio.us?), but Wade Chambers, vice president of platforms for Yahoo, refused to volunteer any clarity.
How many programmers of OpenSocial applications there are today?
Kraus did say OpenSocial "reaches" more than 200 million users today.
With Yahoo possibly adding its 500 million-plus users to the mix that number could vault to 750 million in 2008. That is an impressive social networking footprint when you consider that MySpace and Facebook combined don't total 200 million users.
Will there be any protection for developers in case intellectual property rights are infringed upon?
One questioner on the call asked in the event someone steals a developer's OpenSocial app code and uses it for another application and starts making money with it. Devious!
There was a deep pause. No one wanted to tackle that one because, well, I'm sure they hadn't considered it. David Glazer, director of engineering at Google, said such an arrangement is something the Foundation could look at, but did not commit beyond that.
What if applications splinter under the coding techniques of so many disparate developers?
Glazer said OpenSocial is designed with the flexibility to allow "container-appropriate extensions and tuning." Translation: OpenSocial is pretty darn flexible and robust and shouldn't harm apps.
Meanwhile, Steve Pearman, senior vice president of product strategy at MySpace, claimed thousands of developers are writing applications for the MySpace Developer Platform and other OpenSocial containers. Good news! He said they're not just "toys and widgets," a clear shot across Facebook's bow.
To cap off the OpenSocial news, TechCrunch and several other bloggers are noting that Ethan Beard, a director of social media at Google, outgrew Google (ha!) and will join Facebook as a director of business development.
Well, that takes the cake. Who needs OpenSocial when you can join Facebook and create your own proprietary standard? Beard joins Sheryl Sandberg, Gideon Yu and several other former Googlers who have defected to Facebook.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's absence and the release of its own Live Contacts API to support contacts between a handful of social networks—Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn, Tagged and Hi5—is certainly suspect.
If you are a serious player in the social networking space, now is the time to join the OpenSocial Foundation, not wait to be the last vendor joining.
Facebook isn't joining, and if Microsoft ultimately rejects the group, the battle lines will be drawn: Facebook and Microsoft versus the rest of the social networking world, not unlike Microsoft and IBM versus everyone else in the WS* standards evolution.
I can't imagine any social network not joining the group so long as the APIs become battle-tested on MySpace, Orkut and Hi5.