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8/29/2012
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Wajam Dodges iPhone Restrictions, Adds Social Search, Maps

Bypassing the App Store, social search utility demonstrates the value of making iPhone apps talk to each other and to social networks.

The iPhone 1.0 Anniversary Quiz
The iPhone 1.0 Anniversary Quiz
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The social search utility Wajam has figured out a way to not only inject its service into your iPhone but to wire together apps that don't normally talk to each other.

The desktop version of Wajam's social search works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer, enhancing search results on Google, Bing, and a variety of other popular services like Trip Advisor, Yelp, and even product search on the Best Buy and Walmart websites. When you connect your social media accounts to Wajam, it dynamically inserts relevant content from social posts.

To do something similar for iPhone users, Wajam has hooked itself into Safari, as well as the Google Maps app for the iPhone. Even though Apple's iOS mobile operating system doesn't normally allow apps to modify each other's behavior, Wajam has managed to insert a custom Friends tab into Safari. As shown in the video demo below, you can search for New York restaurants and see which ones your friends have recommended. You can also click through to Google Maps and have your Friends data follow you there.

"We're using a different technology, where users don't have to go through the App Store to download this," CEO Martin-Luc Archambault said. This also means the software didn't go through Apple's normal approval process. "We're bypassing the App Store completely," he said.

[ Putting Twitter on the map: Geographic Search Engine Finds Location-Specific Tweets, Media. ]

Instead of being delivered as an app, the Wajam code is downloaded as a "profile," using technology Apple makes available primarily for the use of carriers and corporate IT management of the devices. Using a profile, Wajam can effectively change the rules for inter-application communication that will be enforced by the phone.

This is sure to raise some eyebrows.

Forbes.com blogger Kelly Clay immediately questioned whether having app creators messing around with profiles was safe, and even Wajam's hometown newspaper in Montreal used the phrase "Wajam hacks into iPhone" in its story on the new feature.


Wajam Friends tab added to Google search.

Archambault said he is "not at liberty to say" what kind of reaction he has gotten from Apple but that he is employing a legitimate and legal technique that has also been exploited by one of the most popular utilities on the App Store, the Onavo Extend data compression utility. Onavo needs to use a profile so users can grant it access to compress Internet communications for multiple applications.

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