RealTime IT News

The Year of Living the OpenSocial

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SAN FRANCISCO – It's been a year since Google and partners launched OpenSocial, an ambitious effort to establish an open, common standard for writing applications to run across all participating social networks.

At an event here hosted by MySpace, several hundred OpenSocial developers gathered to hear about and share programming tips and the latest developments to come. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) previewed some of the features in the next release, version 0.9 of the OpenSocial development framework, set for early next year.

Some of the new features in the 0.9 release are designed to attract more developers to the platform. For example, an OpenSocial Mark-up Language (OSML), is designed to appeal to Javascript developers.

David Glazer, an engineering director at Google, who is overseeing the evolution of the OpenSocial framework, said 0.9 is a significant advance. Once 0.9 is out there and settles down, it wouldn’t surprise me if we polish it up, add a bow and call it 1.0. That's up to the community," he said.

In addition to Google (and its Orkut social network) and MySpace, OpenSocial has gained some major supporters since its launch last year. Most recently, LinkedIn, Ning and Yahoo with its Application Platform, have announced support for OpenSocial, currently in version 0.8. Xiaonei.com, the largest social network in China, announced support for OpenSocial last night. The sight has 30 million registered users.

"We potentially reach over 600 million users," said Glazer.

But despite all that support, the biggest social network, Facebook, is a not a member. There were some Facebook developers at the event and Glazer said Facebook has an open invitation to participate. He said the overall goal of OpenSocial is to make social networking easier for a broad range of developers and consumers.

"It's to make the Web better for everyone, so a two to three person developer, or anyone else, doesn't have to deal with the plumbing of how the Web works and can focus on their application," he said. "Facebook and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and everyone else doing social network stuff all interoperate at some level of the stack and we have ongoing conversations with them."

Raymond Chan, software architect with RockYou, said his company has developed across a range of social networks to reach as many as 90 million unique visitors month. One of its most popular applications, "Super Pets," is a series of virtual pets you feed and take care of. He said it's been downloaded over 55 million times. The company also offers virtual currency for trading items online and Emote, a series of emoticons (smiley faces, etc.) users can send to one another.

Chan said the OpenSocial framework has helped his company reach more customers and grow its base of advertisers.

But what about the enterprise?

While most of the developers here are focused on games, entertainment and consumer-oriented applications like photo sharing, Glazer said he thinks OpenSocial will eventually make its way to the enterprise.

"Do I think we're going to see enterprise applications? Definitely," he said. "Like they always do, the enterprise will adopt more slowly, but the apps will stick very hard when tied to business value that IT cares about like standards and security."