SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 1 — MySpace and Bebo, two of the world’s largest social networking sites, on Thursday joined a Google-led alliance that is promoting a common set of standards for software developers to write programs for social networks.
The alliance now presents a powerful counterweight to Facebook, which, after opening up its site to developers last spring, has persuaded thousands of them to create programs for its users. The addition of MySpace, the world’s largest social network with 110 million active members, and Bebo, the No. 1 site in Britain with 39 million active users, could also put pressure on Facebook to drop its own standard and join the alliance, called OpenSocial.
“OpenSocial is going to be become the de facto standard for developers right out of the gate,” said Chris DeWolfe, chief executive of MySpace, in a press conference at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. “It will have access to 200 million users, making it way bigger than any other platform out there.”
The open standards could create a boom of innovation around social networks as applications reach more users than ever and encourage developers to create more Internet tools.
Google and others said they had invited other social networks, including Facebook, to participate. “The most important principle about openness is that everyone is invited to join,” said Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief.
But a spokeswoman for Facebook said the company had not yet been fully briefed on the initiative, though it expected to have a meeting with Google engineers Friday. The company said in a statement that it would evaluate OpenSocial one it had a chance to study it.
Other members of the OpenSocial alliance include the social networks Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ning and the blogging network SixApart, as well as the software makers Oracle and SalesForce.com. Creators of several of the most popular programs on Facebook, including Slide, RockYou, iLike and Flixster, have announced their intention to write programs conforming to the OpenSocial standards.
The alliance is not likely to erode the popularity of Facebook or immediately alter the dynamics of the social networking market. But it could help revitalize the sites of some of its members, which have seen their social networks eclipsed by the popularity of MySpace and Facebook. Orkut, Google’s social network, for instance, is popular in Brazil and a few other countries, but not in the United States.
Google may benefit in other ways. As other social networks draw more users, it could sell more advertising on those sites. The Internet search giant already has a $900 million advertising partnership with MySpace, and sells advertising on various other social networks. Its ads sometimes appear inside the applications created by third-party developers.
At a news conference, Joe Greenstein, the chief executive of Flixster, whose applications allows users to share movie recommendations, demonstrated his program running inside MySpace.
“We are excited about OpenSocial,” Mr. Greenstein said. But he added that Flixster was not planning to pressure Facebook, where millions of members use the company’s program, to adopt OpenSocial.
Other developers said that the OpenSocial standard does not necessarily mean their programs will work seamlessly on all the partner sites. They say they will have to wait to see how deeply and effectively each social network implements the common standards into their sites.
Blake Commagere, the creator of popular Facebook programs like the Vampire and Zombie games, said certain social networks may not cater to developers as well as Facebook.
Jia Shen, the chief technology officer of RockYou, a top developer, said his company would still concentrate much of its efforts on Facebook. “Facebook is still the default social network you are going to go with right now,” he said.