Googler's Take on OpenSocial, Social Networks

David Glazer, one of Google's main men behind OpenSocial, discusses the technology framework and business of social networking.

Since OpenSocial launched on Nov. 1, the set of APIs for enabling users to move data between social networks has moved fairly quietly into the social site ether, gathering partners and adopters. But don't call it a Google-owned framework, or you're liable to tick off David Glazer, director of engineering for Google and the lead behind OpenSocial for the company.

At a time when Facebook and MySpace struggle with letting users leave their walled gardens, OpenSocial was built by engineers at Google and MySpace so data can move freely between sites using the APIs. EWEEK Senior Writer Clint Boulton caught up with Glazer at the Graphing Social Patterns West 2008 show March 3 to discuss OpenSocial and social networks in general.

Google helped bring OpenSocial to fruition several months ago, but it's been pretty quiet ever since. What has been the evolution of the site since its inception?

Before OpenSocial, the world of social networks was a world of incompatible islands of relationships that were separate from each other. There was no sharing of information between the islands, and they were just different. If you wanted to build a house on one island, it didn't help you at all building a house on another island. With OpenSocial, we now have compatible islands of relationships. What OpenSocial does is say that when you learn how to build something users want in the context of one of these islands, use that in all of the others.

Last quarter was the quarter of announcement. This quarter was the quarter of execution and next quarter is the quarter we will start to use it in large numbers. This quarter has been all about the iceberg under the surface. Lots of code, lots of working out the details and connecting different layers of the stack together and doing it at multiple sites.

MySpace has their development platform and is in a countdown to launch. Orkut has their sandbox live and is in a countdown to launch. Hi5 the same. There's not a whole lot to see above the water but there's a whole lot going on underneath.

Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li spoke earlier today of blending social network information with our favorite e-commerce sites or portals. Those sites would be able to leverage the social network information from our social networks to let us see what our friends thought of books or movies. How far out are we from such technologies and what are the barriers to such integration?

It's hard to call the velocity. I think we will see. If you looked around, you could see proof points for it today but we are far from widespread adoption. It's clearly the direction things are headed, mostly because it's what users want. Secondarily, it's what the Web does; break down walls.

Applications built from social networks include a lot of fun, frivolous things to keep us entertained, such as digital sheep throwing and zombie attacks. What kind of applications could we see come out of this?

There's a class of application that could make sense in both contexts, so a simple application of where are you, knowing where my friends and business associates are. Other applications like sheep and zombies only play in one context and others would just play in the business context.