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What to Look for from Google’s Social Networking Platform October 31, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Lots of buzz about Google’s expected Thursday announcement of a social networking platform, possibly called “OpenSocial.” I haven’t talked with Google yet, but I’ll lay out a few things to look for, both hurdles and opportunities.

1) As an analyst who used to have the word “Unix” on his business card, I’ve seen a lot of “open” “consortia” fail miserably. Regular readers know my Rule of Partnership: For a deal to be important, two of the following three must occur:

– Money must change hands
– There must be exclusivity
– Product must ship

“Open” “consortia” aren’t deals. That’s one of the reasons they fail. The key here would be “Product must ship.”

2) The list of participants includes seemingly everybody but those that matter: the other consumer Internet platform players (except Google) and the online media powerhouses (i.e, sites with huge audiences). The platform gang would be, in alphabetical order so no one is upset: Amazon, eBay, (Google) Microsoft; and wannabes Facebook and Yahoo. (I think MySpace’s future is more portal than platform.)

3) Apparently there will be three sets of APIs (application programming interfaces for developers) covering profile info, friends relationships (the social graph), and feeds/activities. All well and good. But will Google bring along services for those APIs to tap, or is that somebody else’s job?

4) Google’s major innovations to the whole platform ecosystem model (invented by IBM and Microsoft) are two: mash-ups and revenue streams available to participants (e.g., AdSense and AdWords). This sounds fairly mash-y; let’s hear about the revenues.

So let’s sit back and watch the fun. Can Google, the best online innovator and favorite online brand, rally Everybody Else against the other platform playas? Will any of them join in? What of the other big online media gang?

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