Open Social

Open Social was announced yesterday to a lot of fanfare and pontification by social media geeks. However, there were few people that explained its significance to the Business audience…our clients.

The basics of Open Social is an open (vs. proprietary) application platform (also called Maka-Maka)that is very similar to the one released by Facebook a few months ago. By opening up the ability for third-parties to write applications that work within the popular social media site, Facebook has added tremendously to the popularity and stickiness of the site. There are little apps that let you give virtual gifts to other members and our favourite, a Facebook version of Scrabulous where we’re geeking out battling each other in games of online Scrabble!

While the Facebook application environment is fine, it is proprietary and the apps you write for Facebook can ONLY be used on Facebook. Open Social is being backed by an alliance headed by Google, and promises to create an open standard whereby the applications written for one social media site can be made to run on other Open Social sites with only minor adjustments.

The announcement of Open Social was broken by Techmeme here, and Google says:

Common APIs mean you have less to learn to build for multiple websites. OpenSocial is currently being developed by Google in conjunction with members of the web community. The ultimate goal is for any social website to be able to implement the APIs and host 3rd party social applications. There are many websites implementing OpenSocial, including Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.

What does this mean to Business though? Jeremiah Owyang, explains it very clearly in an excellent post. Spend some time and read it and understand what Open Social is all about and how to capitalise on these opportunities:

Efficient development: Since there’s standardization in the code use (APIs) If you develop an application for OpenSocial, it should be easily re-used on all the social networks that are particiating. This greatly reduced development time, you no longer need a ‘myspace strategy’ or ‘bebo strategy’.

Harness existing communities: Since these applications will be plugged into existing communities, the need to ‘build an audience’ isn’t as crucial, as you can leverage the communities where they already exist. Why build if you can easily join.

Open standards help long term: It appear that the standards and development languages are commonly known and not proprietary so it reduced the chance of vendor lock in. Having a common code (API) across all networks makes movement easier, reducing development and re-configuring in the long term. One should always be cautious, as no system is perfect.

Your existing applications become social: Now, your standalone applications can now be shared with communities. If you’ve already spend resources on creating interactive marketing, large libraries, or other projects, consider how they can be re purposed on these websites, be efficient with your resources.

Future brings social to your website: The trend clearly nods towards the direction I forsee, that social networking features (friends and connections) will be brought to the static corporate website. Soon, there will be customers, prospects and employees networked on your own corporate website. We’re not there yet, but start planning on how that will look.

 

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