Sunday, November 4, 2007

Google Microsoft and OpenSocial

Finally it was Google. Since the initial days of internet social networking, people, specially developers, had been waiting for someone to do this. Although Facebook has already opened up its interface for the developers to develop applications, the interface was pretty much confined in the Facebook domain. Todays people use multiple social networking sites and want single, uniform interface to all of them. This idea was also a part of the foregoing Web 2.0 potboiler.

I closely follow the blogs of Alexander van Elsas, a very good analyzer and critic of Web 2.0 user requirements. According to his latest blogs, just before Google announced the launch of OpenSocial (Read the Kamla Bhatt blog and the links there, for details on OpenSocial), Google was the only one who could have done this. Google, with all its weaponry, was perfectly placed to make their interfaces open and still make some sense out of it. But the million dollar question here will be - Why?

From a bird's eye view it appears that Google is trying to push Facebook down. Or say trying to capture the social networking market base before Facebook throws its final arrow. But a little look into the size and potential of the two companies current state will tell that Google will never even consider Facebook as a rival. Although Facebook is rating himself in billions of dollars, their self pricing is heavily criticized as overpricing. Facebook rival is MySpace, who has already joined the Google camp by participating in OpenSocial (The other partners are Hi5, Friendster, iLike, LinkedIn etc..).

I believe Google is aiming on the market potential of Microsoft. Recently there was news that Google is approaching a number of big service providers, including Verizon, for pushing their mobile phone software package, gPhone, on their mobile handsets. This is in direct conflict with Microsoft's interest, who also has a huge business in the same domain.

The launch on OpenSocial is also a somewhat direct attack on Microsoft's business. Lately Microsoft has invested heavily on Facebook. It paid $240 million for a stake that values Facebook at an astounding 150 times of it's revenue - $15 billion dollars. Now, with the launch of OpenSocial, Microsoft will definitely reevaluate their Facebook costs and I don't think they will feel very complacent.

Microsoft also struck a deal to provide advertising to Facebook, through adCenter. But this was after loosing to Google for the ad deal with MySpace.

So far it has been cat-n-mouse game for both the companies and the launch of OpenSocial was just a little Google bite on Microsoft's back. Lets wait and see how Microsoft and Facebook respond to it.

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