So here we go again! Another major step in the development of a new social networking platform is set to release tomorrow. Google and a panoply of other social networks have decided to one-up Facebook and create a super-platform whereby developers can create one application that can be served over Orkut (Google’s social network), LinkedIn, Hi5, Ning, Plaxo, and Friendster. Oddly enough, salesforce.com is in this mix too but it’s hard to understand how they can be a part of this unless your app can be added through AppExchange.
However it may be, your average nonprofit will not be able to take advantage of this development in a meaningful way. There’s no doubt that a few will be able to do so but that’s because they’ve already adopted the infrastructure and skill sets that would allow for rapid adoption for new technology. As I outlined in a couple of earlier posts, if you’re not even state-of-2005 in your application development practices, don’t bother with OpenSocial. Basically, your IT architecture needs to handle hundreds and then eventually thousands of requests per minute and you need to do some seriously rapid application development. If you’re not using EC2 or a web framework like Django or Ruby on Rails or even an agile methodology, forget about it. You’re toast. However, I suspect only ventures that are VC-backed will be quick enough to do this.
It’s an interesting race because one could say that Project Agape’s Causes has had an unfair competitive advantage due to Joe Green’s connections to Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg. As a result, Causes was the ONLY charity app on Facebook for several weeks and had a huge head start during a period when you could invite an unlimited number of your friends to the app. To this date, competing charity apps are having a tough time breaking 20,000 users while Causes is probably going to have its seven millionth user before mid-November. If Causes is the 800 lb. gorilla of Facebook charity apps, it has little or no recognition outside of it. It’s about as pure a play on Facebook as you can get it as Project Agape doesn’t even have an extensive Web presence.
Google OpenSocial hits a reset button for all the players involved – we can now see whether or not the new microphilanthropies (including the one I’m a part of — socialmarkets.org) will be able to change course and adopt this new API. Ironically, this makes the Facebook portion of Convio’s new open platform even more inadequate than it already is for dealing with this new open world of social networking. Facebook apps are not compatible with Google OpenSocial because Facebook’s markup language is only useful for Facebook. This is ultimately Google’s flanking maneuver against Facebook and probably something that may not have been released had Google won the bid to own a portion of Facebook. The incompatibility of the two APIs will certainly cause developers to look at the prospective user audiences involved. After all, at least for nonprofit technologists, LinkedIn has always represented a more “premium” audience for charity asks than Facebook ever did. The addition of the other social networks is nice and can round out your worldwide reach. For instance, Orkut is strong in India and Friendster in East and SE Asia. So imagine being a charity app developer, you can get fifty million young Anglophones (Facebook) or 100 million users worldwide (Google OpenSocial), which would you pick?
And yes, this means the Gold Rush begins TOMORROW. The chances for your app to explode in a viral fashion diminish quickly by every day you’re not out there. Sigh. It’s like the 1990s all over again.