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Open Social vs facebook

November 1st, 2007

partnersGoogle has announced an amazing new standard for social networking called open social. How does facebook stack up with open social? Let me summarize Marc Andreessen’s great post on the subject.

Similarities: Both platforms allow developers to create applications like Slide and Rockyou that work with social networks like facebook, LinkedIn and Ning.

Differences: facebook’s interface gives tethered and tightly controlled access to a single but extremely large network, where Open Social is unteathered and uncontrolled access to literally hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized networks

Which approach will win? Of course, they will both co-exist for a while. In some sense, the differences are smaller than they appear. The technical differences between the two interfaces are extremely small, so application developers will be able to easily support three versions of their products: one on their own web site, one for facebook and one for Open Social sites.

Let’s examine a concrete example. My mom has been thinking about harness social networking for her law firm. Rightfully, she’s been exploring what it would mean to use facebook. There are some advantages: it’s already big and its got some great functionality. But there are disadvantages: do colleagues really want to share musical preferences and pictures of their parties? And should they “friend” their own kids? In short, social/personal sharing has major differences as well as similarities to business networking.

In contrast, LinkedIn has focused on business networking. Until now, they haven’t opened up their platform and so they only have limited functionality. I imagine that someone will create an application on Open Social that will be perfect for Cleary Gottlieb or any large employer. The application will be business-focused: what are your specialties? What’s your new job? What’s new at Cleary? This exact application doesn’t yet exist, but something like it (or better!) will in 12 months or less.

Let me conclude with a couple of unsupported claims that I hope to elaborate on in the future:

  1. Social networking is the most important trend since the advent of the internet.
  2. Facebook is in the pole position, but that this space is not quite “winner take all”
  3. So, Ning and LinkedIn are particularly well-poised to take advantage of Open Social and get a lot of the value created by this trend. Ning will support the long-tail of small networks and LinkedIn represents one of the single most important niches not well-served by facebook.

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