With the rise of Facebook and the arrival of the OpenSocial ecosystem, web site operators are left wondering about prioritization. Which social network(s) should I embrace, where should I invest my time, what site(s) offer the biggest bang for the buck if I build an application?

The folks at Compete have analyzed member overlap at various social networks and explain their findings in this blog post. The graph below shows those interactions.

Compete Social Network Member Overlap

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 20% of MySpace members are also Facebook members.
  • 64% of Facebook members are also on MySpace.
  • Bebo, Hi5 and Friendster all share more than 49% of their members with MySpace.
  • LinkedIn shares 42% of its members with Facebook and 32% with MySpace.

What it means: From a sheer size point of view, Facebook and MySpace are interesting but operators should not underestimate the reach of Bebo, Friendster, Hi5 and LinkedIn. Some of these social networks are very strong in different parts of the globe and, depending where your user base is located, could make interesting platforms for your applications. In addition, LinkedIn and Viadeo reach a business-oriented user base.

Following this blog post yesterday about my speculation that Google is building a mobile development platform, the whole blogosphere announced this morning that Google is leading an initiative called OpenSocial that will see the launch an open social web API. This new API will allow social networks and application developers to work together using a set of standardized instructions. Partners currently include Google’s Orkut, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Salesforce.com, Oracle, iLike, Flixster, RockYou, and Slide.

Opening the Social Graph Barcamp

Flickr photo by magerleagues.

As Marc Andreessen said this morning on his blog,

This is the exact same concept as the Facebook platform, with two huge differences:

  • With the Facebook platform, only Facebook itself can be a “container” — “apps” can only run within Facebook itself. In contrast, with Open Social, any social network can be an Open Social container and allow Open Social apps to run within it.
  • 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. In contrast, with Open Social, app developers can build to standard HTML and Javascript, and their apps can then run in any Open Social container.

TechCrunch explains in more details:

OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google won’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.

What it means: this is a major announcement, maybe the biggest announcement of the year. Standardizing the social web will go a long way towards the explosion of social as a key element of the Web operating system and one more step towards the web becoming a gigantic word of mouth machine. You’ll want to embrace these standards.

Update: According to AlleyInsider, MySpace will announce today that they join the OpenSocial “alliance”

Update2: Techcrunch reports that blog software publisher SixApart is also joining. Bebo also.

TechCrunch reports on a secret meeting that happened at Google in the last few days. It looks like Google is about to “out open” Facebook by allowing developers to leverage Google’s social graph information.

The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.

On November 5 we’ll likely see third party iGoogle gadgets that leverage Orkut’s social graph information – the most basic implementation of what Google is planning. From there we may see a lot more – such as the ability to pull Orkut data outside of Google and into third party applications via the APIs. And Google is also considering allowing third parties to join the party at the other end of the platform – meaning other social networks (think Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, Digg and thousands of others) to give access to their user data to developers through those same APIs.

And that is a potentially killer strategy. Facebook has a platform to allow third parties to build applications on Facebook itself. But what Google may be planning is significantly more open – allowing third parties to both push and pull data, into and out of Google and non-Google applications.

That big rumor comes on the heels of another big announcement from Six Apart about open sourcing the Web’s social graph (a la OpenID). If you thought the Web was fragmented, wait until you can start building application on top of Google, Yahoo or MSN’s social graphs…

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