If you must have your news accompanied by a gripping narrative, then you could say that on back-to-back-to-back business days, MySpace, Facebook and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) all announced new social networking initiatives designed to “out-open” each other. Okay, maybe not that gripping — so compare them all to Rollerball skaters elbowing each other out of the way, or maybe a cold war arms race without the whole closed secretiveness thing. (Ed. note: I’m thinking launching monkeys into outer space works.) Or you could forgo the temptation to try forcing the story into an existing mold. Let’s start with a few basics:
– On Thursday, MySpace announced its Data Availability initiative, which basically lets MySpace users port some core identifying information onto other services, such as launch partners Twitter and eBay (NSDQ: EBAY).
– On Friday, Facebook announced its own Facebook Connect, an extension of its established API. Basically, instead of developers having to port their apps inside Facebook’s walls, the service lets third parties bring elements of the Facebook social net onto their sites. Digg is the first launch party (note: with names like Data Availability and Facebook Connect, you know these announcements were designed to get the developer crowd in a lather, not to excite the user base).
– Finally, Google is launching Friend Connect. Rather than being user-centric, it allows website owners to add social elements to their site. Among the many launch partners: Facebook, Plaxo and Orkut.
Openness aside, this is about each company wanting to be the platform upon which everything else social rests. And since people engage socially on sites that aren’t called Facebook or MySpace, this involves extending the platforms in some way. There may be an element of oneupmanship here, but each of these moves are all logical extensions of existing strategies: MySpace being about identity expression, Facebook as more of a utility for connecting friends, and Google with its OpenSocial initiative, though no actual underlying social net. The timing is notable, but as Google director of Engineering told Dan Farber when asked if the company’s latest move was a response to the others: “People will speculate a lot in that direction. We didn’t create this code in the three days.”