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OpenSocial 2.0 Gets Some Traction in the Enterprise

by Abel Avram on Aug 20, 2011 |

OpenSocial 2.0 comes with new features – new container, OAuth 2 support, embedded experiences, activity streams – and it has got some support among enterprises – Attlasian, Cisco, IBM, Jive, SAP-, as an alternative to Facebook platform.

OpenSocial is a set of APIs meant to support inter-communication between various social web sites. The idea is that a developer writes an application that runs on all websites implementing the API without modification. The framework relies on Google’s gadget mechanism, such an application being HTML+CSS+JavaScript code inserted into an XML envelope. The gadget then can be loaded and executed on a website implementing a gadget container. The Apache Shindig project was created to be a reference implementation of such a container.

Announced in 2007, and embraced by several social companies such as Hi5, MySpace, orkut, Netlog, Sonico, Friendster, Ning, and Yahoo!, OpenSocial was Google’s vision as a general platform for social computing that would eventually gain large adoption and stand against Facebook’s domination. But it did not get the critical mass needed. It started with many problems. Wikipedia mentions that in the beginning only Google had a container available, running inside Orkut, a social network that never received wide adoption. Many of the gadgets did not run properly, encountering all sorts of errors. Also, the security mechanism was weak enough to be cracked in less than 20 minutes, an attacker being able to modify an user’s song playlist.

Nonetheless, Google is still pushing OpenSocial, and the latest version 2.0 gets new features that makes it more attractive for the enterprise, and the standard has been embraced by Alfresco, Attlasian, Cisco, eXo, IBM, Jive, Lockheed Martin, SAP, SocialText and others who have built containers for it. Following is a list of new features recently announced:

  • Activity Streams support: a mechanism for defining rich and detailed social activities
  • Simplified gadget format
  • Embedded Experiences: running a service in a gadget
  • OAuth 2 support – it is in incubating mode since the API is not fully ready
  • Common Container – a new specification for the container that enables a better interaction with gadgets – also in incubation
  • Deprecated support for ATOM, since it was not used in practice

It is likely that Google+ for businesses will support OpenSocial 2.0, according to Dion Hinchcliffe. Other enterprises, such as those mentioned before, will probably implement it inside their organizations, but it is unclear if OpenSocial will get enough traction worldwide to compete with Facebook.

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OpenSocial is open to all... by Mark Weitzel

Abel, thanks for the post on OpenSocial. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts if I might to complement your post. First, from a pure technology standpoint, OpenSocial is not competing with Facebook. The objectives of the OpenSocial Foundation is to ensure the free and open development of the specification. Everyone is welcome to become community members and it would be great to have a company with the kind of vision and social accumen like Facebook participate in OpenSocial. When participating in OpenSocial, you embrace a truly open, and agile style of doing specification development, and you make a commitment to advance an entire community and industry. Companies like Jive, IBM, Atlassian, Cisco, all have made that commitment and the result is another specification with leading edge capability like embedded experience and activity streams.

In terms of adoption, it would be helpful to consider world wide uptake of OpenSocial. For the most part, the majority of consumer facing social networks have adopted OpenSocial as the basis of their programming model. Granted, in the US, many of those are undergoing business pressures from Facebook (and others). I expect this trend to continue over seas into Europe and Asia as well.

Looking into the enterprise, there is NO OTHER open, community driven standard (and corresponding open source project) that provides an inherently social Web 2.0 programming model that provides the easy delivery of SaaS based apps, fosters an ecosystem of application vendors, and enables a market economy for apps. We've seen time and time again that large enterprises like open standards. In many cases, the deciding factor is choice--is the technology I'm using open & supported by an ecosystem, or is it closed and proprietary and controlled by a single vendor.

-Mark Weitzel
President OpenSocial Foundation

The social enterprise SOA platform by Nuwan Bandara

Abel, Great read. Open Social is definitely getting alot of traction in the enterprise, its no longer about few portlets showing important information in a disconnected manner. I would also like to shed some light over WSO2 SOA platform which inherently offer all the social features via Open Social. We have taken Apache shindig as the OS implementation and have facilitated the platform to render open social gadgets.

Being more specific; WSO2 Gadget Server act as an enterprise SOA portal, where users can create dashboards from collections of Google Gadgets; another example would be WSO2 Governance Registry which is a SOA registry/repository, facilitating social features like activity streams/change-logs via Open Social.

While strongly agreeing with Mark Weitzel’s comment; WSO2 also believes that open social is the right way to provision social characteristics to a wider audience including to the enterprise.

- Nuwan Bandara
Product Manager, WSO2 Inc

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