Friday, November 02, 2007

Will Open Social take the cake?

Everyone's talking about Open Social. I'm still trying to get the gist of it but from what I can gather it's similar to Facebook's API. Please note I haven't done any development on any of these so please feel free to correct me. I visited Marc Andreesen's blog and he seems really excited about it. Apparently he has played with it and here's his description in a nutshell.

Open Social is implemented as what I call a "plug-in API", or a "Level 2 platform". In other words, it's not a web services API -- rather, it's a way for external applications to "plug into" a host environment (or "container"). And then, in addition to literally showing up inside the pages of a container, the external app can make Javascript calls to retrieve all kinds of useful information from the container and perform all kinds of useful functions within the container, such as "give me a list of all of this user's friends" or "inject this event into this user's activity feed".

It looks like there are really 2 sets of APIs? One for the container and another for the app? Since it isn't web service based, how does my app interface with the container to begin with? For example, if I have a play list widget how do I get it to the Hi5 network so a user can embed it into her page? Is there a "registration" or "installation" process in the container?

There's a part of me that thinks it might have been better if these were web service APIs instead. For example, I call a "deploy widget" web service on the Hi5 network, and assuming my widget has implemented the necessary interfaces, it should plug right in. I shouldn't have to do anything else. Again, I've not played with Open Social so please forgive me if I missed something. I tried googling for some docs but couldn't find any.

Everyone seems to be looking at social networks as a platform. A platform like Windows where one can build an application to run on it. I suppose Open Social is like the JDK of social networking - write once, run everywhere. But in that scenario I still have to "install" or "register" the app. I think I'd prefer the concept of an applet propagating throughout different social network containers instead.

I bet whoever can build a pure web service based API will give Open Social a run for its money. Perhaps it might even take the cake. It would even be an API where social networks can socialize with each other. One login for all! One friends or widget list that transfers wherever I go! People say a social network is like a mini internet. A web service API would turn these social networks into a single interconnected network. Isn't that what it's all about? Who's up for building it? Google? Microsoft? Yahoo? Anyone?