Google boosted its army in the social networking battle last month by announcing OpenSocial, a platform for providing applications and widgets that any site or social network can adopt. This concept of "write once, run anywhere" is certainly an appealing one for third parties looking to get their products in front of lucrative social networking eyeballs. It was clearly also a response to Facebook's open API initiative that it launched back in May, which almost instantly opened the floodgates to a new rush of users and developers that has only increased in size. Though Google and Facebook have been scoring their respective social networking partnerships over the last few months, two separate announcements this week from major web players Bebo and Meebo are the latest to help tip the scales in Facebook's favor.
MySpace and Facebook may dominate social networking traffic in the US, but Bebo holds strong at third place. The company's visibility is likely to increase as well with its new implementation of the Facebook Platform. This will allow developers to build their apps simultaneously for Bebo and Facebook with a minimal amount of fuss—perhaps none at all. Considering that Facebook reportedly had over 32 million unique visitors in October 2007 and Bebo had almost 4.5 million, this new application compatibility can only be a boost to the traffic of both companies. Interestingly though, Bebo also announced its plans to eventually support Google's OpenSocial sometime in 2008, making it (potentially) the first social networking site to embrace both platforms. Still, Facebook's obvious place at the top of Bebo's list will only be a boon to their offerings—while sticking a thorn in OpenSocial's side.
The second pro-Facebook announcement comes from Meebo, the reigning king of web-based chat which now claims over 20 million unique monthly users. Offering a range of products, advertising opportunities, and unique features like co-op games with chat buddies, its announcement of meebo rooms, a Partner Edition custom-tailored for the Facebook Platform will be another major symbiotic win. As a social site, Facebook's integration of a web-based chat leader that allows users to easily share links and play embedded videos will undoubtedly be a boost to traffic and the amount of time users spend at the site. Meebo can even bring its other major partnerships to the chat rooms it enables Facebook with, like the one it made with Rock-A-Fella Records in September to allow users in a room to preview Kanye West's new album in a social atmosphere.
Likely to Google's dismay, Meebo did not mirror Bebo's intentions to also support OpenSocial at a future date.
While third parties and independent developers have been quick to hop on both Facebook's and Google's platforms, these announcements from significant players in other social corners of the web are a major win for Facebook. The social network is also at an advantage due to its being a visible destination with an established user base for developers. Google, by contrast, could see more difficulties in snagging partners due to its OpenSocial platform feeling more like an ambiguous middleman with no major faces to match with its name.
Ultimately though, the battle for the social networking space is just getting started. Google has notoriously deep pockets and a broader grasp on the web, while Facebook valuations are still at an amazing $15 billion. Grab some popcorn; this should be a good show.