Google Creating the Largest Social Network Ever

So many articles have come out today about the new iGoogle integration with OpenSocial and launch of the developer’s sandbox for iGoogle. I don’t think any of their headlines truly do it justice. Google has just launched something so big that, to me, should keep Facebook and MySpace up at night. This, I believe, is the item Google had up their sleeves which my source mentioned earlier.

Let’s just start with the fact that anyone can join the sandbox! Google has not given any information on if information stored on the sandbox will be deleted when they go live, but indications are that this data will remain when the sandbox goes live. This sandbox seems different than the Orkut sandbox, in that the sandbox, and the live site are one integrated environment. If you sign up for the sandbox, when you go to http://www.google.com/ig it automatically takes you to the sandbox environment every time, and not the live environment. Are you an early adopter and want access to see your friends feeds and share your profile with them? Just sign up for the Sandbox here, add the developer tools tab (Note, tabs are gone – not sure what to call it now. Also, the link in the developer docs is wrong – use the one I just posted.), and now, under “Developer Tools” you will begin seeing all your friends, you can invite new friends, and see their status updates.

Here’s what the new iGoogle Sandbox is:

  • Goodbye Tabs! — “Tabs” in iGoogle previously allowed you to segregate your Gadgets into different “views”, and Google even created pre-populated views such as “Finance” where they gave you all the Gadgets you needed for a particular subject. Google appears to have removed tabs in the sandbox, opting instead to put the “views” (or whatever Google will call them) into a sidebar on the left.

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    I mentioned on Twitter earlier that the new vision Facebook is giving us for user Profiles has a striking resemblance to iGoogle’s tabbed interface. That is all Google is doing here – they are providing a true, open, customizable environment that they have already put years into in order to create the ultimate user profile for an individual. Now Google just needs a way to allow you to determine which of the “Views” will be visible by your friends – trust me, Google has way more up their sleeve on this one. Facebook has a lot to catch up in this. Frankly, Facebook’s best strategy may remain in the walled-garden approach.

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  • Friends from Google Reader and Gmail are now integrated in one, viral environment! — I have mentioned that Google Reader’s “Friends” integration was only the beginning for Google’s social efforts. I also argued that the API Google gives you to access Gmail Friend data is a big thing. Now, within a single environment, you can write applications that have access to these “Friends”, as well as all of your Gmail contact data. Ask it to suggest friend to you – you’ll notice it seems to be using that Gmail Contact API to retrieve your Gmail contacts and add them as friends.

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    Now go into your Gmail contacts – how many people are on your contacts list? I’m willing to bet that for most people it’s way more than you have in Facebook or Myspace or LinkedIn. Imagine what will happen when that entire friends list begins adding each other as friends. This is why I think Google is building the largest Social Network ever. The great thing is Google’s platform is so vast you may not even know you’re in a “Social Network”. This is what Charlene Li was mentioning when she said Social Networks of the future will be transparent.

  • Google Reader Profile is now easier to update and share with others — after you add the Developer Tools, you’ll notice your Google Reader Profile is now displayed and integrated for you. Where many people are using iGoogle as their Home Page of their browser, this now gives you a profile to edit, and share with others. Much of this data is available via the OpenSocial API and can be shared with others via Applications. Google is only beginning to give the user a sense of a “Profile” through this update – expect to see much more from them.

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  • “Updates” Feed/Gadget — under Developer Tools you’ll also see a “Status Updates” Gadget. This is a slap right in the “face” of Facebook’s News Feed in that now any interactions you make in Google Reader get stored in this Gadget, and shared on your Friends’ iGoogle pages. I believe this information will also eventually be available and updateable via the OpenSocial API.

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  • Status Updates — One cool thing I noticed is that when your “Updates” Gadget updates itself, it automatically updates a “Status” under your name in your profile. It doesn’t appear that it updates your Gmail status, but I expect that to happen in the future as well. I’d also love to see this updatable via the OpenSocial API and manually, as well.

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  • Automatic Invitations interface for your Apps — in the upper-right of each Gadget, there is a link to “Share this Gadget”. Click on that, and you can invite your friends to add the gadget as well. This is a great viral way to start, along with the Updates Feed, but I imagine we’ll also see ways to further get into the invitations architecture via OpenSocial in the future. For now, I suggest the Google Contacts API. 🙂

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Now, imagine Google Apps getting this same functionality in the future and your business being allowed to have the same access to iGoogle Gadgets – Enterprise 2.0 is knocking at our doors, my friends! Google has just given us almost all the same functionality as Facebook, in an open, not walled garden. Google has just “Checked” Facebook here I believe.

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