Google gets social tools

Google gets social tools

Google's OpenSocial may draw developers away from Facebook, and appeal to businesses

Google has announced details of a new service called OpenSocial, which offers a standard for developers looking to write applications and programs that can run on various social networking sites.

Google OpenSocial, due to be launched tomorrow, is the firms' first foray into social networking. It offers a set of APIs that users can use to build applications that work on web sites, as well as to create links between participating web services.

Google has Orkut, LinkedIn, Friendster, and a few other sites signed up, as well as a couple of enterprise firms including Oracle and Salesforce, but so far neither MySpace nor Facebook are involved. The set of APIs includes tools for managing newsfeeds, profile information, social information and activities. Tools that relate to individual users, but could also be leveraged by businesses looking to get an over view of their employees' strengths and areas of expertise.

Matt Glotzbach the US Enterprise director at Google, said that he could see the benefits of such a tool, but refused to comment on whether Google had any social networking type releases coming out.

However, he did say that all Google applications were, "enterprise candidates ", and hinted that a tool that enterprises could use to find out whether staff were online, if they were members of any working groups, and what abilities they had, would be very useful.

David Bradshaw of Ovum agreed. He said that such social networking tools should appeal to businesses. "Real time collaboration, sharing, and presence information across a range of applications could be very valuable," he explained.

"A set of collaboration tools that you can take with you from application to application is very useful."

Google's announcement follows a significant investment in Facebook by Microsoft. For just 1.6 per cent of that social networking site Microsoft paid some $240m. Facebook doesn't open up its APIs to third parties social sites, but thousands of applications have been created for, and adopted by, its users.

Writing in his blog GigaOm, Om Malik said that the openness of the Google tools could make it a winner, and draw developers away from Facebook. "Common APIs mean that developers only have to learn once in order to start building social applications for multiple websites, and any website will be able to implement OpenSocial and host social applications… Several Facebook developers have groused that a special Facebook-only mark-up language makes the task of writing Facebook apps tougher," he said.