Yesterday I posted about how Google’s Open Social could be a game changer for social networks – but they needed the big guys to play ball. This morning I read that Myspace and Bebo have joined the party.
Assuming that everyone follows through on their commitments to this programme it looks like it will be a success. It is hard to see how Facebook can continue to chart their own path for long, and if they do I think they will start to lose users.
This development creates new opportunities for startups in two ways.
- For the first time an aggregator of social networks becomes possible – and I think there will be value in this play. I am thinking of a service that gives a single view of all my social networks and offers basic socnet functionality across all of them. The basic functionality I mean cross network groups and group messaging, status updating, private messaging and that sort of thing. I would expect that people will still go to the underlying networks for most of their activity – photo sharing, profile hopping, wall posting etc.
- Developers can cost effectively write the same application and make it available in multiple networks. This is good news because it reduces dependence on the host socnet and adds value to the user by incorporating data from multiple networks. This might also make it easier to drag people back from the application that runs in network to the application’s main site – which would be great news for monetisation.
On a related point the ability to export friend lists could have a major impact on social networks that are devoted to specific interest areas. Instead of asking users to build groups of friends within their application they will be able to leverage friends lists from Myspace etc. This removes a significant barrier to adoption as we have all gotten to the point where we think twice, or three times, before inviting friends to join a new service. I worry about spamming people and I also know that I will only ever keep my friends list current in one or two places.
If Open Social becomes widely supported I think it will make a profound difference to the distribution of value in the social media space. Instead of one or two companies controlling the vast majority of users and revenue the spoils will become more widespread.