MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Microsoft may have outmanoeuvred archrival Google to snap up a stake in social networking site du jour Facebook, but the online search titan is not one to remain on the backfoot for long.

It is now poised to make its own not inconsiderable mark on the societal phenomenon with the unveiling of new software branded OpenSocial.

This allows creators of music and video programs to spread their applications across any of the social networks that choose to adopt it, removing the need to rewrite them for each one.

Google director of product development Joe Kraus claims the new product will break down barriers between sites so users will eventually be able to share their data and social connections across the different services.

In rah-rah mode, Kraus says that developers can gain access to a bigger number of sites, while consumers "get more choice, more applications, more things to do in more places".

Open Social's creation of a single program for multiple sites will challenge market leaders MySpace and Facebook as consumers will have less reason to rely on one particular service

The new venture is also unusual in that it deviates from Google's single-minded pursuit of advertising revenues.

Instead OpenSocial is designed to bring more users to the web, keep them there longer, and make them more likely to use its search engine and other Google-branded sites.

Reid Hoffman, chairman/president of LinkedIn - a social site that connects working professionals - comments: "What Google is doing is pretty clever: to create a simple basis across all the social networks." LinkedIn is to adopt OpenSocial early next year.

Newsflash. . .

News Corporation-owned MySpace has revealed that it too has signed up to OpenSocial. Its particpation, and that of its 200 million worldwide members, will be a strong incentive to other web devlopers to become involved.

Facebook is still sitting firmly on the sidelines but the alliance of its main rival with the Google behemoth will undoubtedly prompt it to consider its position.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff