Google networks with friends

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NEW YORK -- A week after Facebook announced financial support from Microsoft, Google is making its own play in the social networking arena, leading an alliance of community sites with its OpenSocial project.

OpenSocial, which is set to go live Thursday, will allow other social networks and developers to create software applications, or APIs, for use on a variety of destinations. Facebook recently introduced a similar open platform on its site, and it is seen as one of the strengths of that community, which has nearly 50 million users and last week announced $240 million in funding from Microsoft.

Before that announcement, Google was seen as one of the leading candidates to invest in Facebook.

At launch, Google's Orkut is joined by LinkedIn, the largest initial partner in terms of U.S. unique visitors, and Friendster, one of the earliest social networking sites. Other announced community partners are hi5, Xing, Hyves and Ning.

Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace, still the largest social networking site in the U.S., were not mentioned as partners in the initial launch.

The applications on OpenSocial will include features related to user's profile, information about a user's friends and events in which a user is taking part.

Resources for APIs will be available on Web pages hosted by Google.
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