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Open Social: Service integration in web 2.0 way

Logo OpenSocial

In 2005, Google introduced the iGoogle platform: a customizable home page able to support applications that aggregate information from external content. On the same niche portal Netvibes had taken an easy lead in the same year.





Made possible by AJAX technologies, these portals are pratical examples of web 2.0 uses.


Technically, in 2005, these portals operated primarily based on RSS and application-specific editor (applications for iGoogle).

The enthusiasm generated by these platforms will bring publishers to innovate and offer the ability for developers to create their own APIs.

Google and Facebook are in full competition on web social technologies, that’s the reason why Google decided to announce OpenSocial, a set of technical standards that allowed developers to create mini-Web applications intended for being displayed in a web portal and iGoogle pages.

These mini-applications are usually called widgets can be set up on any any gate or OpenSocial compatible social network through a container.

To increase the attractiveness of this technology and accelerate the compatibility with OpenSocial, several containers were levels of compatibility exist for containers:

  • Display (Core Gadget Container): it is to implement the rendering of widgets in a portal but not "social" features like the plugin Gadgets available within Ametys to integrate gadgets sharing information as news, weather forecast, music, video...
  • Social Graph connection (Social Gadget Container): The container provides social data to the gadgets: friends list, groups, activities... This allows to a horoscope Gadget to offer a user to share his daily horoscope with all his friends that share the same his sign.

OpenSocial specifications are based on trusted technical standards as HTML, Javascript, XML, AJAX, and REST. Otherwise, it prohibits any other technology from server side (PHP, Java ...) or client-side (Flash, javascript libraries ...).

OpenSocial ease of access gives it to be a reference for developers, despite of promoting the standard by Netvibes UWA, and the launch of the Facebook Social API which remains essential if one wishes to exploit Facebook users' network..


In late 2009, the cumulative audience for all social networks compatible with OpenSocial exceeds 800 million users. Applications developed under OpenSocial standards can be directly published on a social network or a website compatible. There are now dozens using this technology: iGoogle, Orkut, MySpace, Yahoo! …

In November 2010, OpenSocial has reached version 1.1. Version 2.0 is under development; it will consider HTML5, which will become the default format, work flow redesign and the appearance of gadgets depending on the execution environment.

Create an Open Social gadget is very simple, it offers an interesting alternative to the development of Java portlets (JSR 168 standard or 286) and in general the development of services very dependent of a server technology as Java or PHP framework owner.

Containers usually display the gadget inside an iframe, which makes it "tight" with portal host.

To integrate any OpenSocial Gadget within your platform (website, social network, portal, CMS) it’s necessary to deploy a "container", which is responsible for implementing the OpenSocial standards into your social network or your web portal.

Several implementations exist; the most common used is Apache Shindig, which exists in Java and PHP.

The software is stable and implements many of the OpenSocial specification, but the documentation is sparse, especially you want to make an advanced integration into an existing application.

In its standard distribution, Shindig is intended to run as a standalone, and it is relatively difficult to integrate it as a library in another application, how it is done in Ametys: it overload is part of the source code and redefine certain components.

To provide the full customizable service: Plugin Gadgets in Ametys; the development team has made the logical choice to use Apache Shindig as container.

The Plugin Gadgets is a turnkey solution for webmasters using Website powered by Ametys. In addition to the classic features of OpenSocial container, the plugin Ametys has some additional elements:

  • Possibility for the webmaster to impose a number of gadgets that the user can not remove
  • Ability to restrict user choices from a library of predefined widgets
  • Automatic conversion from any RSS or any UWA widget (mini-format applications Netvibes) to OpenSocial gadget in order to display it

From a user perspective, this integration allows displaying most of the iGoogle and Netvibes gadgets, in the same time as favorite RSS feeds…



Open Social website: http://www.opensocial.org/
Documentation wiki : http://docs.opensocial.org/
Apache Shindig : http://shindig.apache.org/