It’s the day before I head off to fly to Las Vegas for BlogWorld Expo, where Rich Brooks and I are coordinating a session on the theme “Going Global with Social Media”. So the announcement last week by Google of the new OpenSocial initiative was very timely. It was also, frankly, a challenge: how would I find time to get my head around it before our session on Tuesday? Assuming of course that I would be able to get my head around it. At first glance – and second – it looked to me like very much a techie thing. I mean, it’s about APIs and I’m one of those people who has to try and remember, or else look up from time to time, what API and other technology acronyms mean.

Twitter to the rescue. Someone I follow on Twitter linked to the video below.

But first, this is the official Google description of OpenSocial:

OpenSocial provides a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites. Using standard JavaScript and HTML, they enable developers to create apps that access a social network’s friends and update feeds.

The hour-long Google campfire video explains the initiative in some detail, with demonstrations by a range of users – LinkedIn, Viadeo, Ning, Flixster and others. The video is pitched to developers, so I’m sure a lot went over my head, but I found sufficient in it that I comprehended to make the watching worthwhile.

The young but fast-growing elephant that wasn’t in the room was of course Facebook.

The New York Times has a breezy introduction to OpenSocial in its piece Why Google Turned into a Social Butterfly, with an ominous message for Facebook:

Google’s vision — “Social Will Be Everywhere” — is more compelling than anything Facebook could possibly devise. Who wouldn’t prefer the unlimited freedom to take one’s own trusted circle anywhere on the Web, as opposed to the cramped confines of island life?.

And when has an island economy, even a well-provisioned one, ever matched the offerings of the entire Web? (Just ask AOL.)

So will Facebook become a casualty of the social networking wars? Something tells me that we have just experienced a marvellous orchestration of PR, which may well point to a huge picnic coming up for developers, but leave us punters in the non-technical business space wondering when we see some real benefit.

My skepticism was instinctive. Then I found in a blog post on Read/Write Web a post by Marshall Kirkpatrick, OpenSocial: Three Big Concerns some observations which suggest that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Facebook’s imminent death (or slide into irrelevancy) may have been greatly exaggerated.

If you have some better insights, hopefully phrased so the non-technical of us can understand, please share in the comments section below.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).