Google has opened up a new sandbox for developers designed to entice them into building richer social networking gadgets for iGoogle.
iGoogle is basically a customizable home page for individuals that uses Web-based “gadgets” to deliver content to the page. The new sandbox will let developers continue to build gadgets for individuals too, of course, but the news is that iGoogle’s new social features for developers will change iGoogle from a backyard toy to a full-fledged public playground.
iGoogle’s new features, which are only for developers right now, include a new left-side navigation column and a new “canvas” view for gadgets that will let a user expand a gadget to give it more screen real estate. While these features seem handy enough, iGoogle is supporting new social features for gadgets that use the OpenSocial application programming interface (API) supporting OpenSocial 0.7.
One API, Many Sites
The new user update section will let an iGoogle user get social networking feeds from friends who have pages on other third-party social networking sites — for now, a friends list and activity streams. Google said iGoogle will support the requestSendMessage function in the future.
Will Google Go Social?
iGoogle boasts “tens of millions” of users, but Google already has its own social networking site, Orkut, though it’s not particularly popular in the U.S. iGoogle’s social network features — when they are released to public iGoogle users, with gadgets created by developers — have the potential to turn iGoogle into a one-to-many social networking interface.
“It’s about taking the things you do socially out of just social networking sites and putting them wherever you want to be, so it could be on blogs, on Web pages, on start pages, on your enterprise behind-the-firewall page,” Charlene Li, a vice president and principal analyst for Forrester, told LinuxInsider, noting that the concept of extending social networking applications isn’t limited to iGoogle.
“Given today’s parameters, the things I’ve been thinking about the future of social networks is that these social networking sites will actually open up so you can take the social networking graph with you, as well as the applications — because on iGoogle, it’s not very interesting if you can’t talk to your Facebook friends,” she explained.
If users are interested in interacting with multiple friends outside of any single social network, iGoogle has the potential to be a strong organizing location for this purpose, at once cooperating and competing with social networking sites.