Google OpenSocial Spawns Sample Social Network
Big news in application development for the Google OpenSocial effort: An open-source programmer who does not work for Google, Facebook or MySpace created a sample social Web site that will let other programmers test and deploy OpenSocial applications in a safe environment. The site could give OpenSocial some needed momentum.Google's OpenSocial API has been available for several months, but the company hasn't provided much of a sandbox in which developers can test the social software.
That changed Aug. 21 when Google launched Partuza (Spanish slang for "party"), a sample social networking site where programmers can write and test their OpenSocial widgets on their own computers. Here is the live Partuza site.
Partuza is written in PHP and is available under the Apache open-source license. This allows developers to see how they can use PHP Shindig to add OpenSocial support to their sites and even take the code and use it directly in their social network.
Started by Google Nov. 1 2007, OpenSocial is an effort to make the Web more social by allowing programmers to use open-source APIs to write applications that will run on any social network, including MySpace, Hi5 and Friendster.
Though Google doesn't lay claim to a large social network (Orkut is big in Brazil), it wants to provide an alternative landing for programmers who may not want to work with leading social networks Facebook and MySpace, which propel their own data portability efforts.
Partuza was created by Chris Chabot, a software engineer at H2Services, and a member of the project management committee at the Apache Software Foundation.
Chabot describes himself as "interested and involved" in OpenSocial. He offers a guide on how to set up the PHP version of Shindig and Partuza on a Windows machine here.
According to sources I've spoken to in my West Coast travels, OpenSocial iterations have been creaky enough to dissuade developers from using the APIs.
But by supporting a sample site from a third-party engineer, Google is fostering good will among current OpenSocial programmers. Moreover, Partuza may be the push that Google needed to get people over the OpenSocial fence.
I think Chabot's work should give people who are nervous about working with Google some comfort. Google likes to say OpenSocial is not its baby. When other people develop resources for the OpenSocial APIs, it supports Google's claim.
Facebook and MySpace have advantages in that they have networks with a combined 200 million-plus people, but the disadvantage is that because they preside over the network, people accuse them of being too controlling when it comes to data portability efforts. It doesn't matter that their platforms are positioned as "open"; the perception stands.
Google doesn't yet suffer the same perception.
Partuza comes two days after Friendster deployed OpenSocial v0.7 as part of its Friendster Developer Program. This will deliver OpenSocial applications to over 75 million Friendster users around the world.