So Google is becoming more of an operating system than just a set of services. It already has applications, search, advertising, blogging and loads of tools to help you organise and consume data. It’s announced OpenSocial as a set of API’s aimed at developers who might like to create cross social network applications and services. One would assume that all Googles services will sit on a set of OpenSocial integrated API’s. So it’s a connected, collection of services for your life.

Missing (up to now) was an identity piece of the puzzle, but now Google have a Profiles angle coming into play. Google Profiles will connect you to all the services you use giving a human face to the users of their many tools. This has to be a step towards a social awareness tool that could act like a social network across all Google services. Google Operating System reckons it could be the perfect platform for activity streams to be broadcast, I think they’re probably right and we could see a Google news feed erupt out of this. Perhaps this single Google profiles could broadcast your activity across all social networks using OpenSocial?

Google seem to be playing the game very shrewdly at the moment. They’re releasing the building blocks of social networking and activity streaming without ever showing their cards. They could be planning a massive push into social networking as a social operating system, or bloggers like me could be way off the mark and they may just be adding value to our lives.

Advertisements

So Bebo have announced an application development platform with support for Facebook apps. Their using Facebooks platform standards so this should allow for interoperability.

Now Bebo were listed as one of the first OpenSocial partners, everyone else is reporting that this latest news is a snub to OpenSocial but I actually think it’s a very shrewd move from Bebo.

Not only will their apps be compatible with Facebook making it much easier for developers but if they are still going to work with OpenSocial as well they will cover all the bases very easily. It is possible they go the Facebook route alone but I doubt it as that will restrict their coverage.

The killer thing for me is if these apps can share data between networks. It’s all great making standards so development is easy but allowing a Bebo app to talk to a Facebook app, share data and the social graph will open up a world of possibilities and allow for true portability of data (and functionality).

Part of Facebooks game plan seems to have been to create an illusion of openness while at the same time ensuring that their platform is actually closed to anyone who could tread on their toes in the areas that drive their revenue. Now admittedly they don’t have much revenue right now but that is going to change very soon with all the new advertising options available to brands who want to be promoted on the social network. So with this increasing revenue should come an increasingly closed approach as they try to prevent others from stepping on their toes. Right?

Well, it seems Google may have a way in to the Facebook platform, and it may be something that Facebook can’t do anything about.

Bring forth OpenSocket; a Facebook application that allows you to run any OpenSocial application on your Facebook profile. Now, as OpenSocial gains traction I can very well see developers looking for ways to monetise their efforts on this new platform. Of course, with Google at the helm one of the obvious options would be to carry Adsense adverts on your OpenSocial app. So that is how Google can potentially make advertising revenue out of Facebook without striking any sort of deal.

Will this happen? Well, I’d imagine Facebook will try to block Google ads from appearing, but if a lot of developers start using OpenSocial the demand to allow this may be overwhelming and actually more in Facebooks interest to allow this than to try to block it.

A study from PQ Media shows that word-of-mouth marketing has grown by 35.9% in 2006 (to $981m) and is expected to be well over $1B in 2007 (maybe as much as $1.3B). Now, over 90% of word-of-mouth marketing is offline still but that’s changing and with the new opportunities for communication and engaging your customers on the web I’d expect the shift from off to online to be pretty dramatic over the next year.

In 2006, word-of-mouth marketing was still the smallest of the main segments of marketing activity, however it grew almost five times faster than the overall marketing services sector, demonstrating that this is a market segment that is maturing rapidly.

I wrote some time ago about the power of word-of-mouth and how it had been rated as the most trusted form of advertising by consumers. Recommendation is highly valuable to any brand and likewise getting the wrong kind of PR from consumers who don’t like your product or service can be extremely detrimental to a brand.

The rise and rise of social media and networking on the web is going to help the online medium become the biggest platform for word-of-mouth marketing in my opinion. There are a multitude of ways you can interact with your consumers and they can feedback to others on your behalf. Facebook is proving to be huge for word-of-mouth, getting a strategy to utilise this new exposure is really important for brands right now as if they don’t control this themselves to some extent it will happen anyway without their input (which could be bad news for some).

Good news for the viral industry as well! I expect viral to take off in a massive way in 2008 as agencies and marketers work out how to integrate a good viral campaign with platforms such as Facebook and OpenSocial. This will open virals up to a much larger audience and facilitate much larger community conversations about brands.

Brand protection has never been more important so I hope you have your social media monitoring in place?

For development… Don’t get too excited as this doesn’t guarantee them dominance in the social networking world but Google have a bit of a coup as they’ve announced MySpace, Bebo and Six Apart are going to be working on Open Social too. Apparently Google have been in talks with MySpace for about a year on this (which explains the recent appetite to open up from MySpace). Techcrunch has more here.

Here’s the official announcement from Google on their blog, and here’s the link to the API’s which is now live.

And for an insight into why this is all happening, here’s a video from a Google event last night explaining more about why it’s good to be open.

The full list of Open Social members is pretty formidable (MySpace, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, Bebo and XING). Should Facebook be worrying? Well right now all the announcements mean is that there will be an amazing amount of openness between the members of Open Social and there should be some pretty amazing development going on. It doesn’t yet mean that people will leave Facebook for anywhere else (although the chances of that will get greater).

There may be an opportunity here for an early adopter of Open Social standards to create an uber social network which features functionality and data from all the participating networks. It makes the evolution of the life stream much more important and likely to appear sooner. It also gives choice, no longer do you have to stick with anyones interface, you should be able to move away and go to other places while still keeping in touch with the networks.

Yet again, Marc Andreesen is getting the data out about Open Social although I’ve yet to see anything official from Google on this. Google are now supposed to be making the announcement today…

Marc has made a screencast available showing some of the features as they apply to his product Ning:

Looks very interesting!

There are also some screenshots showing how services such as iLike and Flixster can be embedded into Ning social networks.

More Open Social insight

October 31, 2007

The best info on Open Social, the forthcoming open social API set from Google, that I’ve come across is available here on the blog of Marc Andreesen (he of Ning). It’s a great write up on some of the forthcoming features and the reasons behind the venture. He also goes into detail about how this is a good thing for the web as whole.

Rather than try to reproduce it I’d just suggest you use the link above and read it!