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Google's OpenSocial Initiative Gains Massive Momentum

Bebo, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, mixi, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce, Six Apart...

OpenSocial, the industry-backed application programming interface (API) developed by Google to promote interoperability and shared data across all online social networks, is gaining momentum at a rapid pace. The sites that have already committed to supporting OpenSocial - Bebo, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, mixi, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, Wink.comand XING - represent an audience of about 200 million users globally.

“The web is fundamentally better when it’s social, and we’re only just starting to see what’s possible when you bring social information into different contexts on the web,” said Jeff Huber, senior vice president of engineering, Google.

“There’s a lot of innovation that will be spurred simply by creating a standard way for developers to run social applications in more places. With the input and iteration of the community, we hope OpenSocial will become a standard set of technologies for making the web social,” Huber added.

One of the most important benefits of OpenSocial, Huber noted, is the vast distribution network that developers will have for their applications. Critical for time- and resource-strapped developers, he said, is being able to “learn once, write anywhere” - learn the OpenSocial APIs once and then build applications that work with any OpenSocial-enabled websites.

“Thanks to the broad adoption of the OpenSocial platform, iLike can now enable artists to reach an additional 200 million music enthusiasts across the wide range of websites that have adopted this new platform,” said Ali Partovi, CEO of social music service iLike, inc. “Building upon the 15 million music fans we already reach through other channels, the OpenSocial platform helps us pursue our vision of becoming the broadest artist-fan communication platform on the web, without having to write custom software for multiple websites.”

Several developers, including Flixster, FotoFlexer, iLike, RockYou, Slide, Theikos, and VirtualTourist have already built applications that use the OpenSocial APIs. A developer sandbox will be available soon at http://sandbox.orkut.com so developers can go in and start testing the OpenSocial APIs. The goal is to have developers build applications in the sandbox so they can deploy on orkut and ultimately other OpenSocial sites.



The existence of this single programming model also helps websites that are eager to satisfy their users’ interest in social features. More developers building social applications more easily translates directly into more features more quickly for websites.

“orkut has tens of millions of passionate users who are constantly clamoring for new ways to have fun with their friends and express themselves through orkut,” said Amar Gandhi, group product manager for orkut, Google’s social networking service. “By using OpenSocial to open up orkut as a platform for any developer, we can tap into the vast creativity of the community and make new features available to our users frequently.”

The common method that OpenSocial provides for writing social applications means that websites can engage a much larger pool of third-party developers than they could otherwise. They can direct resources that might have gone to maintaining a proprietary API and supporting its developer community to other projects.

“We are thrilled to be supporting OpenSocial,” said Marc Andreessen, Co-founder and CTO of Ning. “These standards give both creators and members of the over 113,000 social networks on Ning an awesome breadth of feature options and an even greater opportunity to make their networks uniquely their own. OpenSocial is the future.”

Because OpenSocial removes the hassle from developing for social networks, developers can unleash their creativity anywhere that catches their interest. This will translate into a wave of social features in contexts outside of the personal entertainment and games that are traditionally thought of as the social web.

“We fundamentally believe that OpenSocial is the right design philosophy,” said Dan Nye, CEO of LinkedIn. “Some social experiences are about photo sharing, some are affinity-based, some professionally oriented--OpenSocial allows each experience to be distinct and provides them a shared infrastructure for development.”

“Our goal is to make life as simple as possible for developers who want to reach the global hi5 audience,” said Ramu Yalamanchi, CEO of hi5. “OpenSocial provides a simple and practical open standard approach that encourages developers to build innovative applications.”

“OpenSocial is an evolutionary step in the integration of third-party applications into the social web,” said Max Levchin, founder and CEO of Slide. “Google's standards-based platform gives us deeper access to multiple networks, which allows us to create a much richer user experience.”

“The Internet has fundamentally changed the expectations that consumers have for business applications,” said Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing, salesforce.com. “By combining the Force.com Platform and Visualforce with the latest OpenSocial APIs, developers and customers can build and deploy a new class of socially-enabled enterprise applications in a way that improves CRM, collaboration and other business workflows.”

Three APIs Available Now

The OpenSocial APIs give developers (with users' permission) access to the data needed to build social applications: access to an application user's profile information, their list of friends, and the ability to share their activities with friends. OpenSocial resources for developers and websites will be available at http://code.google.com/apis/opensocial.

Developers will have access to:

- Three JavaScript and Gdata APIs to access social functions

- A live developer sandbox on orkut at sandbox.orkut.com

- Sample code, documentation, and a support group available at code.google.com

Websites will have access to:

- A tool to help OpenSocial-enable their websites

- A support forum for communicating with Google and other websites

- Sample code, documentation, and a support group available at code.google.com

Developers Already at Work

Dozens of developers have helped test early iterations of the OpenSocial APIs, and Google is grateful for the extensive feedback they have provided:

amiando
Appirio
Bleacher Report
BonstioNet
Brad Anderson
Bunchball, Inc.
BuyFast
Cardinal Blue Software
Chakpak
Chronus Corporation
come2play
CurrentTV
E-junkie
eTwine Holdings, Inc.
Fiendoo Ltd
Flixster
FotoFlexer
Grimmthething
HedgeStop.com
Hungry Machine
iFamily, Inc.
iLike
Indeed.com
KickSports, Inc.
LabPixies Ltd.
LimitNone
LjmSite
LoveMyGadgets
Mesa Dynamics, LLC
MuseStorm Inc.
Netvibes
NewsGator
NY Times
Oberon Media
Outside.In
PayPal
PROTRADE
Puxa
Qloud
RockYou
Shelfari
SideStep, Inc.
Slide
Theikos
TooStep
VirtualTourist
Votigo
Whizz
Widgetbox
Zytu Inc.

Links to these gadgets will be available at http://code.google.com/apis/opensocial.


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SYS-CON's Open Web News Desk tracks the constant stream of compelling technology and Open APIs being released by or catalyzed by Google and its allies.

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