Defrag Conference, Kevin Marks from Google gave a presentation on OpenSocial. Before working at Google, Kevin was Principal Engineer at Technorati. He's also well known as one of the founders of microformats.Today at the
Kevin's speech wasn't on the Defrag agenda, but it was squeezed in due to the timeliness of the topic. Plus, tongue in cheek, it was suggested that Brad Feld and our own Alex Iskold's launch of ClosedPrivate the day before may have compelled Kevin to get OpenSocial on the agenda!
While a lot of the material was repurposed from Campfire, Kevin also sat down with Jerry Michalski and the conversation turned very interesting. There were a few nuggets I wanted to share with the Read/WriteWeb audience.
What Life Stage is OpenSocial At
Jerry asked Kevin: "what stage is Open Social App at?". Kevin was very clear that this is a true alpha - and he contrasted this with Google's typical perpetual beta. He explained that the leaders at Google felt it was important to get this out early, because of the need for developers outside of Google to participate.
User Authentication Model
One of the things I've been very interested in when looking at OpenSocial is how they plan to handle user authentication. According to Kevin: "At the moment, it is delegated to the containers. Clearly this needs to work better. We are looking at oAuth."
This was actually very encouraging to hear. I was afraid that Google would require users to authenticate using Google. I believe it will be important for OpenSocial to ultimately leverage an open authentication method, not depend on a single proprietary Google standard. In the meantime, given the alpha stage, using the container's authentication makes sense.
Kevin Marks at Defrag; Photo: Graeme Thickins
Sharing Data Between Services
One of the concerns that Marshall raised on Friday here on Read/WriteWeb was:
"While most APIs tend to be read-only, the OpenSocial APIs might be capable only of allowing widgets to be published from one network to another. Will one network be able to pull in bio, friend and interest data from another? That's not being discussed at all."
Kevin said that indeed this functionality is on its way. However, the authentication is important, because you don't want widgets to start pulling in data from friends of friends.
Jerry also asked about the ability to add users from one system to another. For example, can I add my LinkedIn contacts to another network? Kevin said that "at the moment it is just a query mechanism, but it is in development."
One of Marshall's questions in the post I mentioned earlier was: Is Google Exercising Leadership or Control? Obviously, only time will tell. However, I did find Kevin's transparency at Defrag encouraging. He answered questions directly and he was clear that OpenSocial is in alpha mode and so there is much more to come.