OpenSocial 1st Birthday!

Today I’m at the OpenSocial 1st Birthday celebration at the San Francisco MySpace offices in SoMa. I don’t know much (anything) about OpenSocial, so this should be a learning experience.

It’s going to be long, so click through to read the full thing.

General Observations

  • Really cool space (exposed brick, raw beams etc)
  • Very professional set-up (black table-clothes, speakers, video etc)
  • Good food/drink (bacon & egg croissants FTW!)
  • Lots of seats, no power ๐Ÿ™
  • Secured but accessible wifi, but it’s painfully slow (very corporate controlled, thanks Fox)
  • Saw/met dotBen right before we got started.
  • Seeing/hearing a lot of people from big players like Google and Yahoo here.

OpenSocial 1st Birthday


We’re getting a bit of background on OpenSocial’s development and organization over the last year. Seeing charts on growth over time, global reach (impressive, lots of international networks/apps implementing it). Some stats

  • User Reach = 600,000,000
  • 1 in every 2 users has installed an OS app
  • 7,500+ apps available already

Now we’re getting some “how it used to be” from someone from hi5. He’s talking about their path to supporting OS. Before = “down in the coal mines”, After = “Borat, I liiiiike!”.

Lane from Google is now talking about the OS Foundation. The Foundation was created so that we could create cool stuff, without worrying about Intellectual Property. Also hearing about the structure of the Foundation and how it helps to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Making sure we know about the new OS wiki and the IRC room (#opensocial on freenode).

Apache Shindig (Java and PHP only) sounds like a cool tool that speeds up development based on discovering information through your social graph.

Apparently all slides from the presentations today should be on the OS site within a day or 2.

Where Can We Go?

  • On and off the web (mobile)
  • New Features!
  • Make it even easier to make it adopt and build, better interop
  • OpenID, oAuth etc being completely standard and “required” for new developments

Ali from XYLabs

Small team from India. Started as 3 devs, 1 designer and a QA intern. They’ve developed a number of social applicattions. Containers = Orkut, hi5, Netwall (?), Friendster and MySpace.

Biggest app is PhotoBuzz, which allows users to “buzz” this contacts with a small “greeting” based on pre-built animations. They are profitable, but are focussing on growth rather than revenue right now. Basically they superimpose their animation over a photo supplied by the user and send it as a “greeting card”.

They built a collection of re-usable libraries, made it possible to drop in analytics engines of their choice to keep track of metrics. Strongly suggests watching your numbers and listening to your users. Adapt quickly.

Viral loops and messaging are the biggest things that differ from container (social network) to container.

150,000 – 200,000 new users per day during “the hockey-stick”. They are now working with things like AppEngine to work around the scaling issues.

They split out their front/back-end and put the backend on AppEngine (python), while the frontend was all PHP-powered, and run off their own servers.

Raymond from RockYou

RockYou is a social applications developer. They develop for all platforms and networks. Their monthly reach is 90,000,000 uniques+ and they have over 80 staff members. 12 billion impressions across their network of apps. RockYou is sponsoring drinks/cocktails at the event.

Mission Statement: Engage the world with social applications.

Apps have been installed over 55,000,000 times across all platforms.

SuperPets is a virtual pet application. Adopt, personalize, accessorize their pets, then engage with their friends through their pet.

They have a new service called RockYouAds which provides advertising across different social networks via their application installations.

Design your UI to support slightly different view sizes across all containers.

Different containers implement certain aspects slightly differently. Especially different user information fields available because of policy/privacy, etc.

Even though Facebook doesn’t support OS, you can encapsulate your app and abstract it out to be ported relatively easily if you think ahead. Generally things run in an IFRAME, so you need to abstract away the server communications parts so that you can make it use either OS or FB-specific processes.

Charles from PixChat

They started out with hi5, then ported out to everywhere. hi5 to MySpace took 90 minutes (!!). Orkut took 60 minutes. Googe AppEngine took 3 hours.

OS != Facebook (but you can make them work together).

Google AppEngine rocks (and will save you a LOT of time).

Use jQuery

Use JSON – it’s standardized and gives you the ability to access your data in all languages.

Build an abstraction toolkit (container differences, view sizes, presence detection, etc)

Use viral channels, measure things (Google Analytics with some custom JS triggers to track events).

Scott (MySpace) and Evan (Google)

Talking about OS 0.9 (what’s coming next). Going through the proposal process and how the community is required to approve/block proposals.

Evan talking about changes in 0.9 that make it much easier to build gadgets etc. Generating HTML on your own server and embedding it back immediately, e.g.

<Content href=""></content>

OS Templates give you a templating language which will be handled by the container.

Splitting out views for apps so that you don’t have to load everything down initially.


Pretty impressive lunch was supplied.

OpenSocial 1st Birthday: Lunch

Arne (Google) – OpenSocialDevApp

OpenSocialDevApp is an interesting “sandbox” type application that gives you access to a lot of tools and resources to get started working on a new gadget/widget. Generates all sorts of shortcut code for you, helps manage server requests etc.

Zembly (Sun)

A cloud-based development environment for developing OpenSocial applications. It is a social network in and of itself, but it provides a “Wikipedia of OS apps”. Has code, gadgets etc as starting points/components.

Provides an IDE (in the browser) to speed up the process, and includes automated hosting built right in (1-click). Collaborative development by inviting/allowing other users to participate in your coding environment. Creates a network around programming artifacts (snippets, gadgets etc), and gives you activity streams etc. You can even create an iPhone app within it.

It connects to all sorts of APIs on the web, to give you access to do things like Twitter aggregation.

Casey (iWidgets)

They take existing content from big content providers and put it in the social networks where people already are. They make their money through CPM/CPC advertising embedded in their widgets. Write once, deploy everywhere (Facebook is still a challenge).

Has a basic RSS –> widget wizard. If you can use something like Yahoo Pipes or PowerPoint then you can use their product.

Open Social Client Libraries

New set of code libraries in popular languages to get you coding faster. They provide an interface to container queries, accessing data etc. Simplifies the process and abstracts away as many differences between containers as possible.

Global Container Crawl

Instead of a pub crawl, the plan was to work their way around the globe, coding/deploying apps for containers hosted around the world. There were prizes to be had and other incentives, but I had to head home to take care of some other things and get some juice for my laptop (battery life is pretty lame on the MacBook Pro…)

All in all a pretty good day, and a great introduction for me to OpenSocial. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to check it out in a bit more detail soon.