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AOL Buddies Up With OpenSocial

Now that it's jumped into the social networking space, AOL's going to have a whole new crop of third-party applications to manage. The online media giant has thrown its official weight behind OpenSocial, the developer standard for social network applications created by Google.

Bebo, the social network AOL acquired in March, already supported OpenSocial, so the announcement was not a total surprise.

Still, AOL's support of the standard furthers the perception of an isolated Facebook as the lone OpenSocial holdout among the heavy hitters of the social Web. Among the others supporting the standard are LinkedIn, Orkut and Hi5.

In March, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) spun off OpenSocial into a nonprofit group run jointly with Yahoo and MySpace.

Facebook, for its part, is planning to open-source its own developer platform, but has continued to resist the standard.

Nevertheless, openness and interoperability have emerged as a strange battleground on the social Web, with all the major players making increasing overtures to the developer community. In a similar spirit, Facebook, MySpace and Google have each recently made announcements regarding data portability, aimed at breaking down the barriers between social destinations on the Web by allowing members to carry their profile information from one site to another.

For AOL, the move is consistent with its companywide mission of opening all its products to developers. AOL has recently opened its AIM instant messaging client and Call Out Internet phone product to third-party development.

The first step in supporting OpenSocial will be to establish the group's Gadgets format as the widget format on myAOL.com. OpenSocial will eventually span to all of AOL's products and platforms, said Eric Staats, AOL's principal software engineer.

"By using this single widget application framework, AOL will take a significant step toward becoming a more open service, making it easier for developers to leverage our APIs to enhance AOL products and services with creative new applications," Staats wrote in the OpenSocial blog.