OpenSocial, a step further towards a "society of social networks"

Since Thursday, Google Code is hosting the OpenSocial project, a group of APIs allowing the development of common software for a certain number of “social networking” websites (e.g. LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Orkut, …).

Before Thursday, every programmer wanting to develop a software for social networks had to learn an API, how to write code and sometimes a new language for each of these networks (when these ones exposed a public API!). Now, OpenSocial gives access to the most common functions of all the participating networks. Currently, the API gives access to:

  • the users profile information
  • the networks and friends information
  • events in the network

One advantage of OpenSocial is that it’s based on existing languages (Javascript, HTML and Flash) where other APIs (the Facebook one, to be clear) impose a new language like FBML. Source code for examples is under a free license as well as all the documentation. OpenSocial promises to open the API source code soon (see the FAQ).

Finally, one slowly achieves a true social networks society (federation) where, whatever website/network you are registered, you’ll be able to use the same applications (who spoke of standardization?). Web 2.0, software are coming!

Now, some questions remain unanswered …

  • One day, one can be registered in a network and access other networks without being registered with them (a bit like gateways allow people using one type of IM can chat with friends using another type of IM).
  • What about security, access to data (from outside) and the public perception about this? (see Bruce Schneier’s opinion on Facebook and data control)

I initially wrote this news in French for LinuxFr (see here).