Google’s OpenSocial API

Google’s announced OpenSocial, an API which enables applications to be wrapped in a universal API which allows them to work across a number of different social networks. And all I can say is so what?

Google’s OpenSocial API is just a common Google-sponsored widget format for mini-applications. One which Google owns the control on. Sure, anyone can write an app using OpenSocial, but anyone can write an app on Facebook too. It looks just as proprietary as the Facebook system it more or less copies.

What’s crucially missing from this solution is openness – What OpenSocial offers is a way in which any application can be wrapped in a container API. That container API is tweaked and made to fit with each of the different social networking solutions out there. This means that the code in the app doesn’t need to change; if the app needs a list of my friends it just calls:

container.getFriends().

If my app sits on my Hi5 page it will get those friends one way and if I have the app on my MySpace page it’ll get my friends another way. The app itself doesn’t care how that happens – that’s the Container API’s job.

The Container API has not been mentioned, it’s the elephant in the room. With access to it I could create a social network on my blog…or Nike could sign up to it and ensure that already popular social apps could fit into their site furniture on their domain, rather than having to fit into another social network’s furniture e.g. Sponsored pages on MySpace. Powerful eh? You can appreciate why it hasn’t been mentioned given the speed at which they’ve released OpenSocial this is clearly an aspect of the API which needs a little more thought and consensus.

It’s the 1st question to ask when considering a brand such as Nike and whether they’d want to sign up to OpenSocial in the future, and that’s the most exciting thing about Google’s announcement of OpenSocial – It stops us from chasing functionality and concentrating on the basics, WHATEVER the social network happens to be.

The conversation is finally moving towards the root of social networking, and I’m all for that.

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