Good for Google = good for the universe. What would a social network be without applications, you ask? Nowadays, probably obsolete; which is why the ambitious, sort-of-new social network Ning made a good move by announcing their support of Google’s OpenSocial v0.7 standard.
This will allow developers to easily build applications that can also be shared across a variety of other supporting social platforms.
On top of the obvious traffic the addition of the easy DIY applications will bring, OpenSocial also allows Ning to offer the following:
* Applications that automatically take on the individual branding that network administrators assign. This is key -- without a universal look, the apps appear to be of your own creation.
* Applications that support gadgets.skins. OpenSocial applications on Ning can inherit the visual style of the member's profile page to which it's added. This is one area where Ning is unique from other general one-size-fits-all social networks.
* Applications that are automatically integrated into the viral loops on your social network. The ability for OpenSocial applications to write to a member's latest activity feed, send messages on behalf of the member (via requestSendMessage) and spread using a network's default viral sharing options are there by default.
The One Fell Swoop Approach
That OpenSocial aims to be The Universal Application Building Software rather than site-specific and bodes well with Ning’s focus on the creation and maintenance of entirely customizable networks rather than their subcultured individual profiles. Without being specific-anything, Ning welcomes people of all ages and interests, as opposed to MySpace that is constantly viewed as something for the younger generation, or Facebook which started out as only available to students at top-tier universities.
Ning's come-one, come-all welcome wagon has already been reflected in their ever-growing constellation of networks. Out of the 30 OpenSocial applications that already exist -- UPlayMe (which lets you share music picks with friends), Rentals (for tracking your Netflix rentals) and Confess (a spot for making anonymous confessions) -- 25 were built by outside developers. That says the audience is probably not going anywhere.
Ning’s Future Gives Facebook a Run for Its Money?
For a minute there, it was almost silly to think that any of the smaller social networks would one day be comparable to major players like Facebook and MySpace, but Ning has grown substantially in just the last few months and well, regardless of the possible death of web 2.0, the numbers don’t lie:
* In April 2008, Ning had 220,000 networks
* This month, Ning celebrated the creation of their 550,000th network
* 15,000 of those networks were added in just the last week
Although application placement is only currently available on profiles rather than network pages, CEO Gina Bianchini told CNET News that this will change, as versions beyond OpenSocial 0.7 are developed.
Furthermore, the question of whether or not Ning will also support Facebook applications, like social network Friendster has already done, is still up in the air. While some may see it as another step in the right direction for Ning, Bianchini -- who says she’d “love to support Facebook apps” -- also says: “"Right now, Facebook hasn't necessarily set it up in a really clear, programmatic way…”
Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t seem like Ning has anything to worry about, and it will be interesting to see how other major competitors react.