Google couldn't get a piece of Facebook or its hot apps platform, so now it's building its own. Not that it would like people to call it Google's platform; it's trying to persuade people that this is an open platform. It's called OpenSocial, and it's supposed to force developers to reconsider writing apps solely in FBML, the Facebook platform's proprietary language. The idea is that Google will gather a gang of websites whose users combined, will offer an audience as large as Facebook's. It's a fine theory, but let's see the real numbers behind the Google Gang.
Or, rather, pretty charts. They're easier, right?
Here's the U.S. monthly visits for Facebook vs. destination social networks Orkut, Friendster, Plaxo and LinkedIn — all Google partners:
Here's the U.S. monthly visits for Facebook vs. some of Google's other varied new partners, Newsgator, Xing, Ning, and Salesforce.com. For the record, Xing and Ning are not related.
If I'm a developer, I'm still going to Facebook first. Google says these partners reach an audience of over 100 million users globally. But the problem is that all those users are in different networks. Viral success in one network won't necessarily spill over into another.
A better solution for Google? Rework its MySpace search and advertising contract on more favorable terms for News Corp., and in return, get MySpace to sign up for OpenSocial.
Look at what happens when you drop bottomfeeder Plaxo from the list of social networks and add MySpace instead:
The incentive for MySpace, of course, is that this solution would save News Corp. execs the hassle of looking up exactly what an open platform is, exactly. Or having to figure out how to look up definitions on the Internet. Or the Internet.