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Google & friends’ face-off with Facebook

Remember when Facebook announced last spring that it plans to be the social-networking “platform” (see this )? Well, Google has created a social-networking alliance designed to give Facebook’s plan a little competition. Google’s Orkut plus LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Plaxo, and Ning the host to individuals’ own social-networking sites are “introducing a common set of standards to allow software developers to write programs” for them, the New York Times reports. According to the Associated Press, the Google platform is called “OpenSocial.” Since Facebook’s announcement in May, the Times says, “more than 5,000 small programs have been built to run on the Facebook site, and some have been adopted by millions of the site’s users. Most of those programs tap into connections among Facebook friends and spread themselves through those connections, as well as through a ‘news feed’ that alerts Facebook users about what their friends are doing.” Those social-networking features enable “viral marketing,” seen by marketers as a much more powerful because much more targeted means of getting an advertising message across. The TechCrunch blog discuss how Facebook’s version, SocialAds, works is doing it: The site is “experimenting with targeting ads on its own site (through its Facebook Flyers program) based on demographic and psychographic data that it culls from members’ profiles. With SocialAds, it will be able to extend that targeting across the Web.” [Here’s this story from the UK-based Financial Times, as well as the FT’s big-picture piece on how the social Web has really taken off.]

Meanwhile, as viral, psychographic-based marketing takes off too, it’ll be interesting to see how Facebook and the Google alliance explain to members and parents what privacy-protection options come with this next phase of social-Web advertising. The Financial Times later added a bit on MySpace’s plans for “hyper-targeted, behavioral advertising.” [Speaking of which, nine consumer organizations have banded together to ask the Federal Trade Commission “to provide needed consumer protections in the behavioral advertising sector” by, among other things, creating a “Do Not Track” list like the “Do Not Call” list already in place, the Center for Democracy & Technology announced today, Oct. 31.]

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