New Google-Microsoft Squabble Seen on Social Networking Front

Google's attempt to take a leading role in social networking has some pundits saying yet another Google vs. Microsoft battle scenario is playing out.

Google got together a gaggle of social networking players -- MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Orkut, Plaxo and Xing -- as well as business software powers Oracle and to support its proposed "OpenSocial" APIs.

Microsoft and its ally FaceBook were conspicuous in their absence from that list. A Microsoft spokesman said the company has no comment "yet" on this effort by Google. (Microsoft invested $214 million for a small piece of FaceBook -- a stake that Google reportedly apparently had coveted.)

Perhaps most important among Google's OpenSocial allies is MySpace, a hugely popular social networking sites owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Google, Mountain View, Calif., is learning early on that the road to social networking credibility is a bumpy one. Within an hour of the news hitting, TechCrunch reported that OpenSocial had been hacked. A few days later the same "perp," known as "TheHarmonyGuy," apparently hacked it again. Harmonyguy blogs about his experiences here.

Such security breaches illustrates the quandary IT and corporate developers will face as social networking wares penetrate the firewall: This software has not passed the same testing and security challenges made-for-business software and services have.

"This is all still outside the firewall for the most part," said Mike Gotta, analyst with the Burton Group.

Nonetheless, corporate developers have to keep a wary eye on the social networking push. In a world where even enterprise stalwart IBM pitches "Second Life" as a viable marketing and PR tool, all bets are off.

Just as America Online and Yahoo instant messaging -- with their freebie consumer software roots -- took companies by storm, social networking sites are moving into businesses.

Gotta says it's too early to call this OpenSocial fray yet another Google vs. Microsoft battle. "This is more like shifting piles of leaves. The word 'camps' is too rigid. People are flocking from pile to pile and jostling for position on the playing field."

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.