Google's OpenSocial API
In a direct challenge to Facebook's emerging status as the default Social Platform, Google has announced a set of API standards that allows Social Website plugin applications to share data and basic functionality across multiple sites.
Here is a bit of a hokey video where Google gets together with some of the partners they developed the spec with, and show off some of the initial apps released on the API.
This move is an interesting start that should see Social Apps become more powerful, especially as the standard matures and alternatives appear. It will be interesting to see what this does to differentiation in the market, given that apps will be a lot more portable.
How does it work?
The API is a REST based format, using AtomPub. While based on age-old HTTP protocols, this recent standardisation effort has recieved a shot in the arm from this announcement.
What does it do?
The API exposes the core features of Social Websites - People and Friends, Activities and State. An activity stream equates to Mini-Feeds in Facebook, or the top lists of diary and other updates in Mixi, etc. State allows storage of values such as preferences and progress for later use.
Who is implementing OpenSocial?
Mixi has just announced involvement, and among those in the initial announcement are Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING.
Why is this interesting?
It allows developers to create basic AJAX RIAs that immediately serve an audience of 200 million users. The methods available are very basic, but provide a standard pipe over which can flow more complex social functionality. As more SaaS models appear, they will be able to leverage a large amount of this functionality through standard APIs.