As has been previously reported here on Search Engine Watch, Google has launched a set of APIs known as the OpenSocial APIs. This post will consider the implications for web and search marketers. What makes this so intriguing is the large list of particpating companies, including: Bebo, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, mixi, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING. This list provides access to more than 200 million people, which certainly provides critical mass.
What developers can do with these APIs is develop an application that works across all of the particpating social media properties. The Google announcement stated:
Several developers, including Flixster, FotoFlexer, iLike, RockYou, Slide, Theikos, and VirtualTourist have already built applications that use the OpenSocial APIs. A developer sandbox will be available soon at http://sandbox.orkut.com so developers can go in and start testing the OpenSocial APIs. The goal is to have developers build applications in the sandbox so they can deploy on orkut and ultimately other OpenSocial sites.
The company left out of the party so far, Facebook, had this to say about the announcement:
Despite reports, Facebook has still not been briefed on OpenSocial. When we have had a chance to understand the technology, then Facebook will evaluate participation relative to the benefits to its 50 million users and 100,000 platform developers.
For application developers, the new OpenSocial API offers the ability to access a much larger audience then they could with a Facebook application. This does not mean that they will necessarily stop developing Facebook applications, but you can see that large numbers of these companies will look to add OpenSocial applications to their development mix. Not only that you can access a wide range of user profiles, friends and activity streams, which differ from platform to platform.
For search marketers, reaching these large audiences provides a unique opportunity. While we are conditioned to think of getting links to our site in a direct way, and then having the search engine give us traffic, there are new types of opportunities. These come in the form of branding activities and direct traffic.
Successful Facebook applications have succeeded in reaching millions of users. This type of success can provide you with a lot of brand value and material traffic. With an OpenSocial application the potential reach is even larger. This type of exposure will certainly have a beneficial impact on a search marketing strategy as well. For one thing, some of these people will love what you are doing and link to you.
More importantly, it's an opportunity to differentiate your site. If your site becomes a hub that offers useful tools and applications, there are plenty of ways to play that into ongoing new traffic, and yes, search engine rankings as well.