DATE: October 2008 - Does Opensocial Mean You Should Be Open to Social Networks at Work?
Many companies block employee access to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. In the future this may seem as
ridiculous as blocking employees from using Microsoft Windows. Social networking is becoming less of a novelty and more a part of the
functional web. Salesforce.com, LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook as well as Microsoft, Yahoo and Google are all trying to compete,
The result is that online social networks may finally be turning a corner towards becoming useful business tools. The days of “poking”
your friends online, getting bit by a virtual vampire or sending someone a virtual margarita may finally give way to productive workdays
spent in social networks getting some actual work done. LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace are already useful for networking and
collaborating with people in your field as well as prospecting for new clients or employees. But will the web “widgets” or “gadgets” of the
future that are developed and deployed in “containers” or “platforms” like MySpace and Facebook change the way we use the web for
business? With the OpenSocial standard being led by Google, more companies are definitely going to try.
OpenSocial is an initiative being led by Google, in partnership with MySpace and others, to develop a common set of application
programming interfaces (APIs). This means that a developer can create an application in OpenSocial and not have to write separate
code specifically for each “container” that it will run in. Over 18 companies and social networks have joined the OpenSocial initiative.
Facebook is not one of them.
Prior to the OpenSocial announcement by Google, there was tremendous buzz within Silicon Valley when Facebook launched its own
API and opened up its site to developers early in 2007. Later in 2007, Microsoft purchased a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook for $240
million. In the middle of the Yahoo! and Microsoft merger talks there is a battle for the big web companies over a piece of this
“platform” pie. Much of this positioning seems related to developing and leveraging a web operating system, further evident by Google’
s introduction of it’s own web browser, Google Chrome.
So what does OpenSocial mean for business networks or established companies looking to monetize and extend their presence on the
web? There is a thin line between a social network and a professional network. For example, Oracle and Salesforce.com were early
supporters of OpenSocial.
A likely trend is that more established brick and mortar companies will be developing APIs. With other initiatives like OpenID, users will
expect more data portability. This is likely to affect online business models as well. If the right application related to your business
expertise and niche is developed, it could become useful and portable across many sites and be different software.
At Commercial Investigations, we have developed an application called CIchecked or Certified Identification. Currently, it’s an online
identity verification trust mark that can be purchased at CIchecked.com and then displayed on users online profiles and e-mail
signatures. As more real world transactions and interactions happen online, our model will be able to integrate background screening
into many online environments.
In the future your clients may spend a majority of their work day in the “container” of their choice, and the availability of your application
to run within that container could mean getting their business or not. An open mind and being open to OpenSocial could make all the