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For Google, The Internet Is Their Social Network (Plus, Business Communities and Cookie Marketing)

For Google, the Internet literally is their Social Network. I first made that pronouncement in a post on whether the giants should buy, build, or integrate, and it looks like Google does indeed want to make the Internet their social network.  Their chosen vehicle for doing this is a set of open apis to be announced tomorrow called “Open Social”.  If a social network agrees to participate and offer these api’s, developers will be able to access them to do three things on the network:

  1. Access profile information about the user.
  2. Access friends data for the user, the social graph, in other words.
  3. Access activities, such as news feeds.

Applications (widgets for social networks, in other words) can be created using these api’s without recourse to any special markup languages such as most networks currently require.  Instead, normal Javascript and HTML are used.  This will make it easier to port existing applications to use the api’s and play on participating social networks.  The host social network gets to set its own rules about things like advertising and other policies in the apps. 

The charter hosts form quite a potent group and include Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle.  Charter applications include Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide, which are some of the key apps from Facebook.

This marks quite a warning shot across the bow of Facebook.  The timing is interesting.  Google probably could have impacted Facebook’s recent financing by preannouncing, but they chose not to.  I think it’s a more clever strategy because it creates a more intangible fear.  If Facebook had gotten funded at their desired valuation anyway, they could downplay the whole Google thing and say the world had voted with their pocketbooks that it didn’t matter and they still got a $15B valuation and $500M in cash.  Moreover, Google may have acted as a spoiler to get Microsoft to commit to Facebook, only to pull the rug out from under them with an open strategy.  Proprietary Microsoft is in bed with proprietary Facebook and out in the cold with the rest of the web.  Doh!

For Google, the Internet is its Walled Garden.  Why should it create sub-gardens?

There are lots of ramifications to ponder including Business Communities and the future of Social Network Marketing.  The mouth waters at the possibilties OpenSocial may bring.  It’s hard to see how Facebook can compete with this simply by adding groupings to their own world.  Google has turned the walled garden inside out with this new api.  A couple of brief notes follow.

Business Communities 

Take special note of the business players in the mix, companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Oracle, for example.  First thought is how much longer will businesses swim upstream trying to use Facebook for business networking and communities if OpenSocial plugs directly into real business networks and communities?

I think there is a huge opportunity for businesses to get hooked up with communities, and Google is going to be right in the middle of all that as are these early movers to the platform.  Imagine the possibilities to be had by linking these kinds of disparate services into collaborative uber communities.  What if companies use this as a mechanism for product registration and introduction to their own communities?  What are the possibilities for tying all of that together?  And how can Google’s advertising machine take advantage of such goings on?

Of Dirty Cookies and Social Network Marketing

Speaking of advertising, there’s been a lot of news lately about Facebook’s “Social Ad Network”.  The idea is that Facebook will plant cookies that tell other sites you visit what your interests are so they can better target ads to you.  Presumably, Google could make use of this api to completely short circuit Facebook’s Social Ad Network by tying their knowledge (via the api) of your profile and interests back to their own AdSense system.  You’ve got to figure the combination of knowing the profile across potentially multiple social networks together with tying into AdSense’s other insights would produce a truly killer ad platform.

There’s one tiny little fly in this ointment for either company, and that’s the idea that for some people, such “dirty cookies” are downright creepy from a privacy standpoint.  I have to admit, I am somewhat in that camp myself.

Interesting times we live in.  If these antics manage to build a box around Facebook that caps it’s potential, we will be seeing yet another hole in the bubble that will start to let some of the momentum leak out.

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Robbin Harris says Google Bluffed Microsoft into Overpaying.  I agree, as I mention above, Google played this one in a very clever way.

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