Everybody's talking: the Social track at Google I/O

JUN 09, 2009
I had a great time at Google I/O -- meeting lots of developers from around the world who are interested in developing applications that use social data. In addition to building web applications for traditional social networks like orkut, MySpace and hi5, developers are also looking at enterprise and mobile applications which take advantage of the social graph, gadgets for Google's platforms like iGoogle, Google Calendar and Gmail, and gadgets for the 5 million websites and blogs powered by Google Friend Connect. We had some important questions raised in many of the sessions and also in the fireside chats with containers and app developers. It was exciting to see the whole OpenSocial ecosystem come together to discuss the current status and progress of social technologies, as exemplified by the I/O Developer Sandbox.

All the sessions at Google I/O were recorded, and videos and presentation materials are now available on the Google I/O website. Here's a little more info about the sessions in the social track:

Google and the Social Web
Daniel Holevoet outlined all the ways Google uses social technologies, highlighting those services which allow developers to extend them using the OpenSocial APIs. During his talk, Dan announced the new support for OpenSocial gadgets in Google Calendar, which include hooks into a calendar-specific API for accessing the currently-selected date range. Dan demonstrated the Quartermile OpenSocial application he wrote along with Arne Rooman-Kurrik and showed how the app could be used for different purposes across iGoogle, Gmail and Google Calendar and talked about how it could be used on any website via Google Friend Connect or on traditional social networks supporting the OpenSocial APIs. Of course, Dan didn't get to cover all the exciting news about Google's social initiatives during this talk-- a real-time gadgets API was announced during the Developer Sandbox!

Google Friend Connect Gadgets: Best Practices in Code and Interaction Design
Jonathan Terleski (lead designer on Google Friend Connect) and I presented this session on best practices for building Google Friend Connect (GFC) gadgets for the millions of websites and blogs using GFC today. We gave a brief overview of OpenSocial, followed by some design principles and a basic framework to think about when building GFC gadgets: what are the social objects, how do users contribute them, and how to users consume them? In the last part of the talk, I discussed how to use page context in your gadgets for content, skinning and language while showing some small bits of code to accomplish each. Most importantly, we announced the opening of submissions to the Google Friend Connect gadget directory and support for OpenSocial 0.9 in GFC gadgets.

Beyond Cut and Paste - Deep integrations with Google Friend Connect
In this talk, Arne Roomann-Kurrik and Chris Schalk talked about how they built the Plane Crazy site for flying enthusiasts and the Chow Down site for restaurant connoisseurs as example sites demonstrating how to integrate Google Friend Connect with existing login systems and add social functionality using the REST and RPC APIs. While these sites were built on top of Google App Engine (using Java and PHP), they talked about the other client libraries and raw protocols available for similar integrations. The Chow Down site is already open-sourced, and the Plane Crazy site will be shortly.

Google Friend Connect and the Real World
Patrick Chanezon led this session along with Shivani York, Henry Chan and Srivaths Lakshmi of TIME.com and Paul Berry of HuffingtonPost talking about how they integrated Google Friend Connect into their sites. Both TIME.com and HuffingtonPost used Google Friend Connect to create social lists where you rank the top items from the news, such as "Top 10 Movie Catchphrases" and "The World's Most Famous Swimsuits." Khris Loux, of JS-Kit, concluded the session by addressing why it's a good idea to integrate with Google Friend Connect and how the web is enhanced by having open API access to social data.

Building a Business with Social Apps
Shawn Shen and Chewy Trewhalla, Developer Advocates at Google, and Gerardo Capiel, VP of Product Management for the MySpace Open Platform, led this session showing how developers can make a living by building social apps. Virtual currencies, the recent OpenSocial extension proposal for a virtual currency spec and implementations on hi5, 51.com and other networks were discussed. In talking with a wide variety of developers and preparing this session content, our team learned even more about this industry, and we hope you can too.

Designing OpenSocial Apps for Speed and Scale
How do you use standard web optimization techniques in combination with existing and new features of OpenSocial 0.9 to develop a fast social application which scales efficiently? Arne Rooman-Kurrik and Chris Chabot examined this question in great depth. They took the Quartermile application which they developed and dived into the bandwidth, cpu and monetary savings achieved by applying a variety of optimizations--from image spriting, to data pipelining and proxied content. From the naive implementation to the optimized implementation, they showed how you could improve latency by nearly 70% and drastically reduce the cost of hosting a social application.

The Social Web: An Implementer's Guide
Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect at Plaxo, led this standing-room-only session about the current state of the social web and how "The Web is now social... and the Social Web is now open." He recapped progress made in the last year, with the emergence and increasing adoption of a variety of technologies which make up the Open Stack: Open ID, XRDS-Simple, OAuth, Portable Contacts, OpenSocial. He gave many demos, including demonstrating the death of the "password anti-pattern" leading to a 92% conversion rate on users importing their contacts from sites supporting OpenID+OAuth and Portable Contacts.

Powering Mobile Apps with Social Data
Many people today have a mobile device which has internet access, and they probably use those devices as much (if not more!) than they use their computers. I explored the different ways to use social data from the web to enhance the experience users have with their mobile devices. I demonstrated and dove into the code of three different types of apps -- pure web apps targeted at mobile devices, a web app which uses some native GPS functionality via Google Gears and adding a social scoreboard to the "Divide and Conquer" open source native Android application. I then spoke a bit about the future of mobile development and how the features available between native applications and web applications are beginning to merge with the new HTML5 and W3C standards which provide access to native functionality such as databases, app caches and GPS location data.

OpenSocial in the Enterprise
Social networks are typically thought of as tools for personal communication, but they've increasingly become important in the enterprise world as well. Chris Schalk of Google led this panel along with representatives from IBM, Salesforce.com, Oracle, eXo, SAP and Atlassian to share the ways enterprises have used OpenSocial technology outside of and behind the firewall.

There's a wealth of new information in these presentations which were all prepared especially for Google I/O, including several new announcements. The presenters also developed quite a bit of code for Google I/O, which we'll be releasing as Apache-licensed open source projects over the next couple weeks. Stay tuned to the OpenSocial blog for those releases.

By Ryan Boyd, OpenSocial Team