Facebook appears to be trying to gain some ground against Google’s as-yet-unreleased OpenSocial effort by opening up its developer platform for other sites to use. The F8 platform started as a set of APIs that other sites could use to create widgets — of which there are now about a million (two or three of which are actually useful) — but the social network announced today that other sites can now license and use the Facebook platform, something Bebo appears to be doing already.
Where does this put Facebook as far as OpenSocial goes? On the other side of the fence, it seems to me. Facebook is talking about getting platforms or networks such as Bebo to adopt the Facebook platform markup language and other aspects of how it works, so that then applications designed for one network can be used elsewhere — but presumably only if that other network or platform also supports Facebook’s language and standards (this reminds me of Microsoft’s attempts over the years to convince developers to use its various flavours of HTML and other languages).
In any case, this is pretty much exactly what Google seems to have in mind with OpenSocial: a single set of standards that application developers can use so that widgets or apps run on different networks and data can flow from one to the other and back again (Chris Messina is coming at the same idea from a different perspective). Of course, there is a possibility that Facebook and Google could work together, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. (ParisLemon says this is just a proxy for the war between Google and Microsoft).
Nick O’Neill of All Facebook asks in his post who the competition will decide to side with — Google or Facebook. To me, there’s no contest. Yes, Facebook is popular and has lots of cool features. But whose application or development format would I want to support? I’d go with Google every time. In any case, as Dave “Mc500 Hats” McClure puts it, the social-platform wars are on. And hey, don’t forget about Friendster either — they have a platform too.