When OpenSocial launched last November many Google watchers suspected it would be through the iGoogle home pages that Google consumers would be able to enjoy the fruits those APIs had to offer.
Google took the step many assumed it would and opened an iGoogle sandbox for developers to help them build richer gadgets for the home page. This is the start of a social network, Google-style, where users connect with friends through their Gmail integrated on their iGoogle home pages.
iGoogle's new features will include social features for gadgets using the OpenSocial APIs, including a new updates gadget that displays friends lists and activities to encourage content sharing.
This gadget will be able to read updates that it posted from friends' iGoogle pages. For now, gadgets have a maximum number of updates they can post each day per user. Gadgets can also send messages to a user's friend, with a maximum number of messages it can send each day per user.
There is also a canvas view to view full content for gadgets and a new left navigation option, so that each gadget's title will appear on the left, linking to the gadget's canvas view. For example, users can access their e-mail, Google News and tools.
This replaces the horizontal tabs in iGoogle and lists all tabs and gadgets so that users can now access any gadget from anywhere in the product.
Check out these screenshots for the various views -- home and canvas -- and other ideas on how to use the sandbox. Programmers, see this YouTube video by iGoogle programmer Jake to get an idea of the type of coding you'll do.
It's early days for the sandbox, and only programmers can leverage it, but as Erik Schonfeld on TechCrunch notes, the writing is on the wall for consumers.
ReadWriteWeb's Josh Catone is particularly pumped about what this sandbox means for OpenSocial, where the start page is the entry point into the network.
And because OpenSocial is geared to work with other networks, the iGoogle content will be federated properly. However, while some may want Google to go full-speed ahead, Google Operating System's Ionut Alex Chitu provides a more sobering vision.
He hopes Google tones down the socialization aspect so it doesn't turn off the millions of iGoogle users who don't want a Facebook-like spamming element in their start page.