Yesterday Bebo announced that they have built an application platform modelled on, and in partnership with, Facebook. They reached out to Facebook App developers to use this to extend their Apps onto Bebo, claiming they wanted to be open so rather than another platform, leverage the existing one. Apparently Facebook & Bebo have been collaborating on this for 4+ months, and went live last night with 40 Application Developer partners.
Facebook confirmed, adding they will enable other social networks to license the Application Platform language & leverage 3rd party apps on their own networks. This news, essentially an announcement that Facebook is going to take-on OpenSocial head to head, has rocked Silicon Valley, where social networking is the next big thing, and the biggest question on everyone’s minds had been the portability of your social graph. 24 hours after the Bebo announcement, the blogosphere is abuzz, calling this the “social networking proxy war” between Microsoft and Google.
To dive deeper, the Facebook announcement means a 3rd party developer who has already learned & built Facebook Apps can extend the reach of these apps onto any other network that adopts the Facebook Platform. From a new developer’s POV, Facebook represents a massive & gowing base of users and a live & flourishing platform. I’ve read posts from other smaller social networks saying exactly that: why bother with OpenSocial, which its effectively nothing more than vaporware. Facebook has all the users and all the developers. In fact, Bebo has already taken their version of the platform live, whereas their commitment to support OpenSocial is months away from fruition. This may knock the wind out of OpenSocial’s vaporware. We’ll see in the coming weeks if other social networks, seeing an alternative to Google, fall in line behind Facebook to support it’s platform either in lieu of, or in addition to, OpenSocial.
The Facebook-Google relationship has a short but eventful history. When OpenSocial first launched, people thought Facebook would be forced to join. Instead, they are acting in the best interests of their developers & users by opening up their platform. Indeed, Facebook may represent the next Google, and no doubt people across the valley are at this moment wondering if social networking is a big fad, or if it represents the next evolutionary step after search in the evolution of the web. When Google & Micosoft were both courting Facebook, I’ll bet Google would have pushed to own the advertising platform and leave the social network, or content, to Facebook. Whereas it’s now clear Facebook has its own visions for becoming the next social advertising platform, leveraging social data better than anything a banner ad could ever achieve. In fact, during or just after the MS-Facebook negotiations, I remember reading that if Google lost the deal, their recourse would be to build a coalition of Facebook Apps that would sell in-App advertising through Google, thus circumventing Facebook’s own advertising platform. OpenSocial; coalitions against Facebook: Google must be worried. Facebook, for it’s part, has been bold. And is now suddenly being taken very seriously. My, they grow up so fast, don’t they?
With Orkut moderately successful internationally but a failure in the US, one big thing that Google had going for it was Myspace. However with Facebook getting so much more press than MySpace (much to NewsCorp’s chagrin, no doubt), and with Google continuing to put the squeeze on the newspaper industry (where NewsCorp has strong holdings including the newly acquired WSJ), MySpace’s support of OpenSocial might be called-into question. And if Facebook wants its own advertising platform, why not MySpace as well? These questions and many others that Mr. Murdoch may be asking himself today could drive another wedge between NewsCorp’s Myspace & Google. Creating an opening for Microsoft, Yahoo, and others to gain a foothold into MySpace’s advertising inventory.
In the end, I defer to the immortal words of none other than Bugs Bunny: “of course you know, this means war.”