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Thursday, 13 December 2007

Considering that this project is planned to essentially end up as one or more volunteer based websites that link into the social networking sites we all currently use, I guess the question of what technology to build it with can't really be avoided. Given the young professional demographic I think we should focus on, Facebook is the obvious place to start.

Facebook then, provides a set of APIs that third parties can use to build applications that link in to its website. An API is an 'Application Programming Interface', which basically means that it allows applications and websites to communicate with each other without having to write lots of complicated code. I'd point to the wikipedia definition but frankly its pretty impossible to understand! Anyway, key point is that this interface is specific to Facebook only. If we wanted to link into other sites we'd have to repeat the whole process again.

But timing couldn't be better because the geniuses at Google have just released
OpenSocial, which does the same thing as the Facebook API but for a whole range for social networking sites simultaneously. It allows developers to access the following core functions and information at social networks:
  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)
Which would be great if Facebook was part of the mix. But it isn't. Still, all's not lost, because a couple of guys on the web have set up OpenSocket which is a project to bridge the gap between Facebook and OpenSocial. So I guess its a case of watching this space...

Finally, there's also FOAF. Did we really need another acronym?? But it is worth a mention because it could well be the future beyond Facebook and MySpace.
FOAF or the "Friend of a Friend" project is a "simple technology that makes it easier to share and use information about people and their activities (eg. photos, calendars, weblogs), to transfer information between Web sites, and to automatically extend, merge and re-use it online." Unlike the others this is about standards based freely available tools. This could just be the next disruptive technology and another one to keep an eye on.

If you or anyone you know knows how to develop on any of these platforms, or is a budding genius looking to explore these for fun or to boost their CV... drop us a note :)

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