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Social Software Standards

By Abhay K

Back in 2011, social software made the headlines when top executives – not just from the US, but from all over the world – pushed the industry to make a greater effort in relation to adopting, promoting, and enhancing standards for enterprise collaboration. In fact, a major trans-national company went so far as to sponsor a World Wide Web Consortium event to promote that view. The W3C Social Business Jam was hosted as a number of online meetings conducted over the course of three days in November that year.

At this event, an experienced collaborative services engineer said standards were important for what he considered the core aspects of enterprise social networking: connecting and engaging people, allowing people to interact, and empowering workers to capitalise on the data they access using social media. The engineer said he believed standards like OpenSocial, OAuth, and Activity Streams were a solid foundation.

In fact, companies like IBM were actively involved in the creation of OpenSocial 2.0 and ensuring it addressed enterprise requirements. This update to the specification is reflected in products such as Lotus Domino, a project slated for a 2012 release. This is supposed to be OpenSocial’s “big year.” Enterprise social networking vendors like Jive Software have openly taken to OpenSocial, which looks like cementing its future position in enterprise integration.

On the public Web, OpenSocial has been completed upstaged by the de facto standard set by the Facebook platform for embedding applications and games. On the other hand, many public social networks provide support for OpenSocial gadgets. It has a consumer face, which is part of the appeal. This “crossover” adds extra momentum for the developer community.

But the discovery aspect of enterprise social networking has few formal standards. Instead, there are several popular technologies, such as Apache Hadoop as an instrument for managing big data analytics. The open source Apache Shindig means it’s now possible to establish your own OpenSocial container for testing, or even use it as the basis for your own social networking site.

Facebook has also taken to OAuth 2.0 and the Open Graph Protocol, which is also admired by enterprise vendors Yammer and Socialcast as a way of extending their social networking capabilities. The Open Graph Protocol enables a method for embedding metadata within a web page that Facebook uses together with its JavaScript APIs and other elements of its platform.

The goal here is to extract data when somebody hits the “Like” button, or otherwise interacts with the page. For instance, open graph metadata can identify the title and thumbnail image to be shown with a post to the user’s activity stream. When applied by Facebook, this will work in the same fashion – whether the page being liked is presented as an iFrame inside Facebook, or as an independent web page on its own.

As a provider of social networking applications, Net Solutions supports the Open Social initiative and plans to use specific APIs for both internal application development and client projects.


About the Author
Abhay K
A sales/advertising/marketing enthusiast, Abhay got addicted to the Internet in mid-90s and has kept pace with its evolution and technology. This wide and deep exposure has helped him successfully lead multiple teams at Net Solutions. He's also involved in the (F)OSS movement and writes a personal blog about disparate things that interest him, ranging from science to performing arts.

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