Well, while over the past couple weeks while Microsoft was going Yahoo! and quietly doing this, two states down south from Washington State Google quietly made a bit of news themselves by launching their Social Graph API.
What's a Social Graph API? Basically it's an aggregator for one's social networks that allows you to find undisovered friends in other networks. Below is a little video that explains it better.
This is a great application for two reasons:
1. It makes the addition and proliferation of specialized social networks sites easier.
2. I can find my friends on the sites I really use like Titter and Dopplr rather than on Facebook which has essentially just become a giant address book.
Most importantly though, this API further demonstrates a social network isn't Facebook. Facebook is part of the suite of tools that comprises one's social network that may also include, MySpace, Twitter, Dopplr, IM, YouTube and other web based applications/tools that let you communicate with and share with others.
It will also be interesting to see how content itself starts to line up and get aggregated or measured in some form. Presumably this API is an opportunity for Google to start aggregating ad sales, but that's not what excites me. Here's what does. For some of my clients we include in our media plan earned media, a term taken from the PR world naturally. Which to us means PR coverages gained by having highly creative advertising. In otherwords, the creative itself is so engaging, insightful or interesting it earns media coverage that talks about the ads and as such distributes the ads. We can start to look at social networks the same way. If a piece of brand content is interesting, engaging or insightful enough people will talk about it, spread it and disseminate it for you. A form of earned media. Imaging if Dove evolution launched today and you could see the waves as it spreads through social networks. Or watch OldSpice's Will Farrell Semi Pro spots, which are fantastic, get talked about and shared.
Now, the actual to measure this measurement is a bit off yet, but we're heading there. Maybe it will be a more sophisticated or tagged version of Twitter's measures they released for Super Bowl or Super Tuesday:
But while it's still crude the idea of earned media derived from social networks is really powerful. Far more than slapping up another banner ad or a slapping logos all over a mediocre widget.
A far more intelligent explanation of the API: