OpenSocial and the Future of Social Business

By Babar Bhatti on January 11, 2012

Over the past few months the MutualMind team has been using OpenSocial 2.0 standard to build new social products for enterprise applications. Before we explain that, we think it would be beneficial to present a primer on OpenSocial and its role in bridging the gap between social technologies outside and inside the enteprise firewall. We start with a brief introduction to OpenSocial, talk about the new developments with OpenSocial, and touch upon how it can help with the integration of social technologies inside enterprise applications.

Lets start with a few view points about OpenSocial.

  • OpenSocial 2.0 is not universally loved or accepted, but it has great potential. David Carr, Information Week, Dec 2011
  • OpenSocial has established itself as the fundamental technology driver of the app based economy. OpenSocial Blog, May 2011
  • The latest version [of OpenSocial] has a chance to go mainstream, the question is if users will find the features compelling enough to use. Dion Hinchcliffe, ZD Net
  • OpenSocial 101

    OpenSocial is a specification that defines a browser-based component model, known as gadgets, and an API for accessing information about user profile information and social graphs, including friends and activities. Applications that use the OpenSocial APIs can be embedded within a social network itself, or access a site’s social data from anywhere on the web. [Sources: Wikipedia and Opensocial.org]

    Here’s another definition: At it’s most simplified, OpenSocial is able to offer up bits of user interface from one application, while embedding them in another application, exchanging information along with it.

    One obvious benefit of using OpenSocial is that personalized and relevant information can be embedded in the workflow of users and users can interact with that information without having to toggle applications.

    Latest developments

    OpenSocial 2.0 was released in late 2011. Dion Hinchcliffe, noted analyst, has written a very helpful post about OpenSocial 2.0 at ZD Net. Here’s schematic from his post which does a great job of summarizing the key features of OpenSocial 2.0.

    As noted inthis article, new features announced for OpenSocial 2.0 include embedded user experiences (allowing user interaction with content from external services), better support for Activity Streams, support for mobile experiences, support for OAuth 2.0 (better unified identity authorization across applications), and more open search capabilities (designed to prevent social applications from becoming new corporate information silos).

    Support by Key Players

    We think that this new standard – OpenSocial – will be increasingly important for enterprises to bridge the gap between public facing social networks and internal social initiatives. However, without involvement and support from key players, the standards may not go very far.

    OpenSocial has gained solid support from enterprise software vendors such as Jive, SAP, SocialText, IBM, Nuxeo, Atlassian and others. For instance, see here and here for more information about how companies are adopting standards and social business.

    Open technology is the foundation of the Web. We believe that OpenSocial is on the right track and has built the momentum to build that foundation. In upcoming posts, we will share details of our work with IBM, a business partner of MutualMind.