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doorway.jpgLater today, Google will announce OpenSocial (link will go live soon ) and suddenly, every marketer who wants to stay relevant will need to start taking social networks very seriously indeed.
In a nutshell, OpenSocial will let developers use Javascript and html code to write applications which are essentially widgets that will work on any website that chooses to implement OpenSocial. These applications will be able to access user profile data, friend lists, and friend-related notifications. And they can broadcast content across a wide number of sites simultaneously.
Since Facebook – the leading social network (by a factor of 10)- opened its platform to outside developers last spring, more than 5,000 small programs have been built to run on the Facebook site, and some have been adopted by millions of the site’s users. But MySpace, which has more social networking clout than Google’s other announced OpenSocial partners, has joined OpenSocial, and that means all-out socnet war.
The thing is, many of the Facebook apps are silly things like vampire hugs and food throwing. It’ll be interesting to see how developers figure out ways to expand the concept to additional business uses.
Whether OpenSocial will succeed in one upping Facebook depends on who you listen to.
I agree with Charlene Li, who says:

“Watch for the smartest, most aggressive developers to move over to the OpenSocial platform, eager to create apps that will gain early, viral traction in these new networks.”

Internet pioneer Marc Andreessen on why his company, Ning, is participating in OpenSocial, writes:

“With the Facebook platform, app developers build to Facebook-proprietary languages and APIs such as FBML (Facebook Markup Language) and FQL (Facebook Query Language) — those languages and APIs don’t work anywhere other than Facebook — and then the apps can only run within Facebook.
Look at it this way: most users on the Internet (1.3+ billion, with 100 million joining every year) are not yet using any social networking service. The more compelling social networking becomes, the more users who will discover and start using social networking, and the bigger the pie gets for everyone, including Facebook.”

Dave Winer is more skeptical:

“Standards devised by one tech company whose main purpose is to undermine another tech company, usually don’t work.
In this case it’s Google trying to undermine Facebook. And I don’t think it’s going to work. What would be exciting and uplifting, a real game-changer — Internet companies giving users full control of their data.
When Google makes their announcement on Thursday, the question they should be asked by everyone is — How much of my data are you letting me control today? That’s pretty much all that matters to anyone, imho.”

And Andy Beard scarfs,

“OpenSocial is just another step in Google’s play to control everyone’s personal profile.”

The developers of some of the most popular Facebook applications, including iLike, Slide, Flixter and RockYou, are expected to be present Thursday evening at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where they will announce that they will tailor their programs to run on the OpenSocial sites.
Related: Robert Scoble is reporting from the Google conference on Twitter.