Google’s (GOOG) OpenSocial recently added Friendster to the group, bringing its total user base to about 350 million people – almost four times Facebook’s 90 million. But app development for the platform still lags behind: Developers have created just 4,500 apps for OpenSocial, versus 37,000 apps for Facebook.
Why? One reason: It’s newer, which means it’s less familiar to both developers and users. But Facebook developers we’ve talked to also say it’s just too tough to switch over, especially for individual coders or small widget shops.
There are a few main reasons for this:
- Technology – Developing for Facebook is entirely different from developing for OpenSocial, and developers tell us that you can’t re-use much of your code base. So you have to either develop from scratch or spend a lot of time porting over.
- Philosophy – Each different social network has a different core user base who interact with the network in different ways. So you not only have to spend time dealing with the different technology, you also have to re-think your app every time you add a new network – even the ones within OpenSocial.
- Features – While it has become easier to move your app from one OpenSocial network to another (MySpace to hi5, for example), each network has different features and different channels for growing and spreading applications. This means you have to figure out which app will work best on which network, and spend time tailoring each app.
These roadblocks aren’t prohibitive – there are developers, even small ones, who’ve been able to develop on multiple networks simultaneously and successfully. But not enough at this point to make the OpenSocial platform nearly as popular as Facebook’s.
But that could be changing too. David Westwood, developer of OpenSocial app “BuddyPoke,” says the newest version of OpenSocial makes it technically easier to get an app over from Facebook to the OpenSocial networks — though there’s still significant development time involved, and app companies still have to account for the philosophical and feature differences between sites.