At the Forge - Social Google Gadgets

How do we turn a Google Gadget into an OpenSocial application? An initial look at the OpenSocial API—what it includes, as well as what it doesn't.

OpenSocial provides a standard library and packaging system for applications that fit into a social-networking site. Assuming that enough sites implement the OpenSocial specification, this will greatly ease the burden from developers, who still will have to develop for Facebook.

This month, we took a short look at what the OpenSocial standard offers developers and how we can create applications that take advantage of these supports. We also saw how OpenSocial applications communicate with the enclosing containers. Finally, we saw how we can even create a simple application in only a few lines of carefully chosen code.

It remains to be seen whether OpenSocial will succeed, either on its own or as a competitor to the Facebook development platform. I do believe that it needs to become more mature before it will be truly useful. But, the intentions are definitely positive, and there is a great deal of potential for good to come out of this standard.

Reuven M. Lerner, a longtime Web/database developer and consultant, is a PhD candidate in learning sciences at Northwestern University, studying on-line learning communities. He recently returned (with his wife and three children) to their home in Modi'in, Israel, after four years in the Chicago area.