Google, other supporters mark OpenSocial's first year

Backers of OpenSocial marked the first birthday of the application development platform for social networking apps.

OpenSocial has made it much easier for My Mini Life to port its eponymous application to a variety of social networking sites that support the project, including Google's Orkut, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 and Ning, he said. The company built its first application for the Facebook platform, before OpenSocial was available.

"There are some differences between OpenSocial containers but we're able to deploy in new containers pretty rapidly. It has helped us grow more rapidly than we could have otherwise," said Rajlich, using the term "container" to refer to the OpenSocial implementations of different Web sites.

"It would have taken a lot more effort without OpenSocial," he added. "We can focus more on improving the user experience because we don't have to spend a lot of time retooling the application to work in different social networks."

However, Suhail Doshi, a student at Arizona State University who has built OpenSocial and Facebook applications, said the Facebook platform "wins hands down" in terms of functionality for development.

"This is sort of the nature when you've been around longer and you don't have to deal with meeting the demands of other big player social networks," Doshi said via e-mail. "There's a lot of gridlock and arguing over what should be in the specification and what should be prioritized. Facebook is allowed to iterate faster on theirs."

If Facebook holds out and an industry battle emerges over which platform will end up as the preferred standard, the key to win will be openness, minimal restrictions and strong APIs, said Doshi, who worked as an intern last summer at Slide, one of the biggest makers of applications for social networks.

"I would put my money on Facebook in the long run, but all the application developers are dependent on each network. Developing on OpenSocial is basically not putting all your eggs in one basket which is generally a good choice," Doshi said.

Whatever happens, OpenSocial will continue pushing forward. Coming in early 2009 is version 0.9 of the APIs, which will include the new OpenSocial Markup Language (OSML), designed to make it technically simpler to create JavaScript applications.

Foundation Chairman Hurff would like to see makers of IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) like Microsoft and Adobe make it easier to build OpenSocial applications inside their products. This would encourage the creation of more robust, sophisticated OpenSocial applications, something MySpace would welcome in its site, he said.

"Next year, when we talk at the Open Social second anniversary, there is no question that rich applications will have come to the MySpace Development Platform and Open Social," Hurff said. For example, he envisions versions of office productivity applications like Google Docs and the upcoming Web version of Microsoft Office to be available within MySpace, which students could take advantage of, he said.

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