Google, MySpace, Yahoo Form OpenSocial Foundation

The three companies forge the OpenSocial Foundation, a group dedicated to social application interoperability. Facebook remains alone.

Yahoo joined Google and MySpace in launching the OpenSocial Foundation, marking Yahoo's support for the open set of APIs created to fuel interoperability between social applications.

Launched March 25, the OpenSocial Foundation will be an independent, nonprofit group with an intellectual property and governance framework. Related assets along those lines will be assigned to the group by July 1. Engineers from Yahoo, MySpace and Google will work with OpenSocial developers to advance the specification through the new foundation.

OpenSocial is a stake in the ground for sharing information and data bits between the disparate walled gardens known as social networks. Prior to the effort, applications built for MySpace couldn't work on another social network because of the different code bases.

If programmers build applications with the OpenSocial APIs, which are available under an open-source Creative Commons copyright license, those applications could theoretically run on any social site supporting OpenSocial without requiring duplicate work from developers.

Thanks to Yahoo's new support for OpenSocial, programmers writing applications or developing platforms based on the specification could connect with more people than previously possible.

Yahoo, in a high-stakes battle to avoid being acquired by Microsoft for roughly $42 billion, boasts more than 500 million users worldwide thanks to its Web mail and instant messaging applications. The search company, which had been rumored to be joining OpenSocial for several weeks, is not a surprise newcomer to the effort.

The company has been vocal in its support of open-source technologies, specifications and Web applications, embracing the OpenID spec for single sign-on portability, as well as distributed computing standards such as Hadoop.

If programmers can leverage the Yahoo user base with OpenSocial software and social networks, the effort would gain some serious momentum against more proprietary efforts such as Facebook, which has not joined OpenSocial.

It is not clear whether Microsoft, which March 25 unveiled an API to allow Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged and LinkedIn to let users move their contacts between the various services, will join OpenSocial if it acquires Yahoo.

Google, MySpace and several social sites launched OpenSocial Nov. 1. To this point, adoption of OpenSocial has been slow, and some users who tested the spec's APIs complained that they are buggy or broken.

However, MySpace recently launched its MySpace Developer Platform on OpenSocial APIs. Orkut has also started making OpenSocial applications available to its users; Hi5 will do so at the end of March.

Those interested in learning more about the foundation can go to its Web site here. Also, an open-source reference implementation called Shindig is being created and developed as a project in the Apache Software Foundation incubator.

Other members of the OpenSocial community include, Friendster, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, Plaxo,, Six Apart, Tianji and Viadeo.