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Apache Shindig Gets Social

  • October 8, 2010
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
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For developers, including social networking technologies into modern Web applications is often a key priority. The OpenSocial standard, originally developed by Google, is one mechanism that developers can leverage for social networking applications.

But standards are one thing, and implementation is another. That's where the Apache Shindig project comes into play. Apache Shindig is an OpenSocial container that enables developers to handle OpenSocial application content and gadgets. The project recently hit its 2.0 milestone as it continues to track the latest OpenSocial standardization efforts.

"Apache Shindig is a proven technology in use by most major social networks and thousands of enterprises," Paul Lindner, chair of Apache Shindig's project management committee, told InternetNews.com.

Lindner explained that there is significant overlap between the OpenSocial standards community and the Apache Shindig project, which he touts as the most popular OpenSocial implementation where many new ideas are tested before they are standardized.

With the Apache Shindig 2.0 release, the project is adding in new support for the OpenSocial 0.9 and 1.0 specifications.

"OpenSocial 0.9 and 1.0 have a number of new features that make gadgets faster, including data pipelining and templates," Lindner said. "There are a number of new APIs that are useful including Photo Albums, Groups and Messaging."

There is also experimental support for a payments feature that could allow developers to leverage Apache Shindig for commercial transactions.

"The virtual currency feature is experimental and allows a gadget to initiate purchases in a container environment," Lindner said. "Containers, including hi5 and some Chinese social networks, allow these gadgets to debit and credit a user's balance. These transactions are generally used to purchase game items or virtual goods."

Apache Shindig supports a number of authentication mechanisms for inbound and outbound requests, Lindner noted. He added that the OpenSocial specification describes the OAuth authentication approach in a number of places that are supported by Apache Shindig.

While multiple organizations have backed and supported OpenSocial, including Google and LinkedIN, among others, social networking giant Facebook is not one of them.

"OpenSocial is an open standard -- anyone can implement it and participate in the standardization process," Lindner said. "Facebook has implemented a number of open standards such as OAuth and OpenId, but has not implemented OpenSocial or taken part in the standardization effort."

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lindner noted that there are a number of challenges for developers to get their first Apache Shindig installation up and running.

"The first challenge is writing the glue software that connects to your unique system," he said. "One needs to link user, activity and applications data from the native system into the Apache Shindig core. More documentation and examples in this area will help and there are a number of people working to improve this."

Moving forward, the project will continue to evolve and the current plan includes a commitment to have monthly maintenance releases for the 2.0.x series.

"Longer term goals are OpenSocial 1.1 support and improving the existing OpenSocial 1.0 code base," Lindner said. "As always, the Apache Shindig community makes the decisions and we welcome all contributions."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: open source, social network




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