Businessweek Archives

Social is the New Black


Social networking isn?? just for social networks. The folks at Google believe social networking tools will soon extend beyond the likes of Facebook and MySpace to nearly every site on the Web.

??oing to the social network to be social is not the long term view,?says Joe Kraus, director of product management at OpenSocial, Google’s effort to enable developers to create social programs that work on sites across the Web. “What you really want is the ability to bring your friends with you and be social on any Web site.”

Kraus sees social applications, such as photo sharing, chat and sharing favorite music artists, as following the same path as user generated content. Originally, “UGC” was something confined to sharing sites such as community edited encyclopedia Wikipedia or blogs. Now nearly every media site allows its audience to comment and submit content. “The principal of letting users participate is present in innumerable web sites,” says Kraus.

OpenSocial already has many of the Web biggest widget companies, such as iLike, RockYou! and Slide, signed on. News Corp's MySpace, the number one social network, is part of the effort as well as business cocial network LinkedIn, AOL's Bebo, and niche network creator Ning.

In the future, Google could see social applications migrating from its Orkut social network to its mail service Gmail and its personalized homepage iGoogle. "One could imagine iGoogle and Gmail as potential areas where this is going to be used," says Kraus.

The future Google sees has the potential to be totally cool or completely annoying, depending on how Web sites handle the capability. I wouldn't mind seeing social tools, such as chat, when using e-mail. Email is, in many ways, a social application. But I don't know that I want to see social apps on every site I visit. For example, I don't necessarily want to see a widget listing the reading habits of my friends while reading an online magazine.

Google may give Web sites the power to be social. But they must have the wisdom to use that power judiciously.


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