W3C Launches Effort for Social Web App Interoperability

The W3C has teamed up with the OpenSocial Foundation to launch a new effort to create standards for social Web application interoperability.

BYOD apps

The W3C has launched a new Social Activity to develop standards to make it easier to build and integrate social applications with the Open Web Platform.

According to the W3C, future standards—including vocabularies for social applications, activity streams, embedded experiences and in-context actions, and protocols to federate social information such as status updates—will address use cases that range from social business applications, to cross-organization federation, to greater user control over personal data.

W3C is working with the OpenSocial Foundation on this effort. OpenSocial specs make it easy for apps to reach users where they get work done; in their activity stream, in content, in email or even on their mobile device.

"The OpenSocial Foundation exists to break down barriers between the often siloed systems people rely on at work," said John Mertic, president of The OpenSocial Foundation, who, with IBM and Telecom Italia, recently submitted material as input to the standardization effort. "We do this because, today more than ever, people need to be able to effortlessly connect on the job to get things done and barriers between the systems they rely on prevent seamless collaboration. This W3C Activity provides additional focus and resources to ensure that all enterprise applications can Be Social Together."

As part of its new social activity, W3C has chartered two new groups. One is the Social Web Working Group, which will define the technical standards and APIs to facilitate access to social functionality as part of the Open Web Platform. These include a common JSON-based syntax for social data, a client-side API and a Web protocol for federating social information such as status updates.

The other new group is the Social Interest Group, which will coordinate messaging around social at the W3C and formulate a broad strategy to enable social business and federation. It will harvest use cases and review specifications produced by technical working groups in light of those use cases.

W3C officials said the organization's research shows that businesses are turning increasingly to social applications. Indeed, a recent study confirms that businesses that embrace social tools to share knowledge internally, collaborate with suppliers and listen to their customers experience much greater growth than those that do not. In a modern organization that has diverse IT systems, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, remote workers and regional partnerships, crucial information about business process status can be lost in email or when different systems do not interoperate. Open standards are the key to scalable integration, W3C said.

As a potential use case, consider a business-to-business sales environment where a salesperson is using a customer-relationship management (CRM) system. Upon closing a sale with a new account, the salesperson needs to update colleagues in finance, professional services and other departments. Interoperable standards for status updates—activity streams, for example—make it easier for the finance department to approve a contract and professional services to update a timesheet, even if they are using very different applications.

Interoperability needs extend naturally beyond the firewall. If two organizations wish to cooperate on a venture, they face the problem of securely collaborating via potentially very different access control and messaging systems. A system based on open standards that enables the federation of decentralized status updates and private groups can help two organizations communicate, W3C said.

The group's work is not limited to social business use cases. Some users would like greater control over their own social data and share their data selectively across various systems. For example, the standards that will be developed will enable a user to host their own blog and use federated status updates to both push and pull social information to a variety of other social networking sites.

The Social Web Working Group's first face-to-face meeting will take place in late October as part of TPAC 2014, W3C's annual gathering of working groups.