The whole Facebook vs. Google [+ Coalition partners] discussion raging on Techmeme and elsewhere, around the announced launch of Google's "Open Social" initiative, is giving me a major deja vu moment.
It's a flashback for me to a dozen years ago, when another seemingly unstoppable, newly minted incumbent, saw an "over-night" challenger with dominant market power.
I'm talking of course about Netscape finally being challenged by Microsoft in the first browser war, when Microsoft announced in the fall of 1995 that it's browser, Internet Explorer, would be free and fully integrated into Windows going forward.
GeekPhilosopher.com has a good summary of how it all went down the last time around, illustrated by the adjacent image.
Ironically this time, it was Marc Andreessen, formerly of Netscape, who helped unleash the Google-sponsored Open Social discussion online this time around, as Fred Wilson points out.
The media, both online and off, will feed off this Google vs. Facebook "social network war" for months to come, just as they did the Microsoft vs. Netscape "browser war" over a decade ago.
We all know how that turned out, especially for Netscape.
But it's important to remember that we're merely in the Announcement phase of this Open Social initiative.
So much depends on the IMPLEMENTATION of this technology by a large number of participants, including competing social networks like MySpace, Beebo, etc., lead by Google's incessant support.
Last time around Microsoft put on an intense and sustained effort to not just kick-start developer and partner support around it's browser. There was an unrelenting focus on this effort that took years to muster, marshal and move forward.
Google needs to have the same intensity, sustained over a long period of time, to make this Open Social initiative really work as well.
Last time around the rivalry between the two companies got personal from the top down.
It remains to be seen if it gets personal this time around as well.