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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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November 1, 2007 2:00 PM

Big News in Social Apps

One of the hottest trends in online applications development is the push towards popular sites and applications to open up platforms through which third party developers can extend core functionality however they see fit.

The most hyped example of this was the Facebook Platform. In May, popular social network Facebook launched their platform for developers to create applications that do things like add games to a Facebook page, encourage new modes of communication between Facebook users, and all sorts of other functionality. In about 5 months, this platform has seen the creation of more than 7000 applications. Some of them have gone from no users to 850,000 in a few days. A couple have already been bought up for millions of dollars.

Another highly prominent example is Salesforce.com. Their hosted customer relationship management platform boasts something called the AppExchange, which allows Salesforce.com customers to add to the core functionality of that platform by purchasing any of more than 600 applications like new interfaces, integration with other apps like Skype, and time tracking.

The problem with both of these and related endeavors is that they all ran on their own separate platforms. So in order to create an application that could run across multiple social networking sites, for example, demanded that developers build separate versions of their apps for each site they wanted to reach. Needless to say, for a developer wanting to reach the widest audience possible with their creations this was an untenable situation.

Enter an initiative driven by Google with support from a number of applications platforms, like Salesforce.com, LinkedIn, Ning, and Friendster, among others.

OpenSocial is a set of common APIs through which developers can leverage to build applications that work across any social network that decides to opt in and support this initiative.

I'm a firm believer that a key component to driving adoption of broadband applications is anything that pushes the marketplace towards standardization. Nothing kills the average consumer's interest in technology than having to deal with conflicting acronyms. Simply put: they just want whatever they're using to work, they don't want to worry about how it works and what it works with (or more importantly doesn't work with).

While referring to OpenSocial as a new standard may be overly bold as not every social network has opted in (most notably Facebook), it does push things in that direction. So I'm eager to see what this might mean for enabling people who are already developing these apps to expand their customer base and for people who were on the fence about jumping in to the app development game now that their efforts won't have to be constrained by the limits of any one particular social network.


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