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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Google’s OpenSocial API?

TechCrunch reports that Google will soon publicly launch a project named OpenSocial. To be hosted at, according to TechCrunch OpenSocial is “a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications that work on any social networks (called ’hosts’) that choose to participate”. Mike Arrington adds:

Google wants to create an easy way for developers to create an application that works on all social networks. And if they pull it off, they’ll be in the center, controlling the network.

Mike adds that the core functions the API will be able to access are profile information, information on the friends someone has, and information on the social network user’s activities. At the moment, Mike says the participating social networks are Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Plaxo, Friendster and more (but not Google-competitor Facebook, though who knows, peer pressure might get them to join).

Also, John Battelle of Searchblog posted a press release on the subject. From that release (I linked the Orkut sandbox, though it doesn’t work here yet):

Developers will have access to:
- Three JavaScript and Gdata APIs to access social functions
- A live developer sandbox on Orkut at

Websites will have access to:
- A tool to help OpenSocial-enable their websites
- A support forum for communicating with Google and other websites

On a related note, in August this year Google’s Brad Fitzpatrick released a manifesto called Thoughts on the Social Graph. Brad said the goal should be to “Ultimately make the social graph [social network] a community asset, utilizing the data from all the different sites, but not depending on any company or organization as ’the’ central graph owner.” Brad adds that the goal is specifically not to create another social networking site, or to replace Facebook, saying “Early talks with Facebook about participating in this project have been incredibly promising.”

However, as the New York Times argues, OpenSocial may still mean trouble for Facebook. “The strategy is aimed at one-upping Facebook, which last spring opened its service to outside developers. Since then, 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.” A person who remains anonymous but is associated with the “alliance,” as the NYT names it, is quoted to have said, “Facebook got the jump by announcing the Facebook platform and getting the traction they got. This is an open alternative to that.”

ZDNet blogger Garett Rogers already shares his first impressions on OpenSocial from a developer perspective:

For the past several weeks, I’ve been using Google’s OpenSocial platform to develop a gadget that will work in the Orkut “container”. I have developed several applications for Facebook in the past, so I can say from experience that compared to Facebook, this new platform has some very cool features. For example, developers have access to store shared data right on Google’s servers – that means you can build scalable applications that require no infrastructure of your own.

[Thanks Colin Colehour and TomHTML!]


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