TechCrunch today report on Google’s plans to launch a new project called OpenSocial, which will provide developers a set of Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) to build social networking applications that will work on any participating social network.
OpenSocial will be accessible at the URL: http://code.google.com/apis/opensocial, which will go live on Thursday.
When launched, OpenSocial will consist of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, which allow developers to access core functions and information on social networks:
- Profile Information (user data)
- Friends Information (social graph)
- Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)
Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle are the platforms that have already agreed to partner with Google on OpenSocial. Application developers Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide are also on board. Interestingly, all these application developers have seen great success on Facebook.
Hints that Google might plan to expand further into the social networking arena surfaced last month when a leaked video showed Google employees discussed the company’s plans to introduce more social features into Google Reader.
Advertising on Social Networks
Google has not mentioned any specifics at present about whether or not advertising will be accepted, but it is obvious that this will be their way to gain access to most of the popular social networks without needing to buy them outright!
Once a number of developers build popular apps that get included by scores of users on their profiles, Google will be able to easily set up revenue-share schemes, similar to AdSense for regular content publishers, which will allow developers to include ads in their apps and make money for themselves and Google with minimum effort. The image below shows what this might look like conceptually:
Rather than using brute force to gain access to a number of users, Google has used a cunning method to reach the same attractive user base without spending too much money. They were probably not too bothered when Microsoft bought a stake in Facebook either.
The success of such an ad placement strategy depends on two factors: (1) whether the host social networks will allow applications to carry ads that don’t earn them any money, and (2) whether Google will provide enough incentives for the developers to include ads alongside their applications. For now, one can only wait and watch how Google will monetise this new channel.