Just when it looked like Microsoft had the upper hand in its social networking battle with Google, Google has tipped the balance back in its favor with a broad partnership with MySpace and over a dozen other second-tier social networking sites.
Google and MySpace announced OpenSocial, a set of open APIs that will help web developers build applications that can be plugged into container social networking sites such as MySpace.
Companies supporting OpenSocial include: Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING, Google said.
The obvious missing name is Facebook, the rapidly growing social networking site that threw open its proprietary APIs earlier this year and now boasts thousands of Facebook-compatible third-party applications.
Google executives said during a press conference that they had been talking to Facebook about membership in OpenSocial, something later denied by Facebook.
OpenSocial is important to the likes of Google and Microsoft because social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are rapidly emerging as application development platforms. Application developers are a constituency Microsoft cannot afford to ignore.
Facebook last week took a $240m investment from Microsoft as part of an exclusive advertising deal, a partnership widely seen as a big win for Microsoft over Google.
Yesterday’s deal sees Google emerge with a stronger hand than expected. Its Orkut social networking site is an also-ran in most countries. But it has evidently been working in secret on OpenSocial with MySpace for about a year.
Chris DeWolfe, CEO of News Corp-owned MySpace, said that OpenSocial is needed to spur innovation among widget developers by reducing the need for porting applications between platforms.
That innovation is only going to occur if third-party web application developers build new products and new applications, as opposed to rebuilding and rebuilding and rebuilding on different standards, he said at the press conference.
Technical details of the APIs were set to be released last night, but as of press time the Google web page hosting the information was dead.
But the companies, at a press conference, demonstrated a MySpace page hosting an OpenSocial-based application from Flixster, a community for movie fans. The widget leveraged information in MySpace about the user to allow them to share movie favorites and reviews, for example, with their friends.