Social Networking Platforms: What a Mess

OK, maybe it’s a glorious mess—all these platforms that began with Facebook last May eventually will shake out into something really useful. But I can’t imagine that widget developers are real happy right now trying to develop so many versions of their apps. With Bebo joining the social network platform today, Friendster yesterday, LinkedIn on Monday, and Google whenever it gets OpenSocial up and running, that’s no fewer than five significant platforms. No doubt I’ve forgotten a few others. Plus, today Facebook said it would open up its platform, clearly a response to OpenSocial’s promise of a broad-based platform.

There’s clearly an opportunity for someone to make it easier for apps developers to write once and publish anywhere, but I have no idea who that’s going to be yet. (I just now heard about Widgetbox, which offers to do just that. While I think services like this could prove quite valuable, it also feels like one or more of the large social networking services will be the key drivers of standards, and that’s where I don’t see an obvious winner yet.)

Just to show how crazy it is, get a load of this visualization from Dave McClure:

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.