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Social Standards: Web 2.0 Vs. Enterprise 2.0

The OpenSocial approach to defining social software standards has the backing of Jive, IBM, and others--and the scorn of upstarts like Yammer.
When OpenSocial 2.0 was ratified in August, one of the main themes of the release was harmony with other social standards, such as the Activity Strea.ms specification for syndicating news feeds and OAuth for authorizing access to profile data and other social assets. OpenSocial 2.0.1, which finalizes the specification's support for OAuth 2.0, is currently up for a vote of the OpenSocial developer community. Support for OAuth 2.0 had previously been tagged as an "incubating" portion of the specification because OAuth 2.0 was still in the process of being finalized by the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Although everyone in the social software world seems to be in love with OAuth, the Yammer contingent is critical of other standards OpenSocial seeks to align itself with, such as Activity Strea.ms. Pisoni said Open Graph is "a lot simpler of a description than Activity Strea.ms" and that the trend in social software is to "keep simplifying because, at the end of the day, it's about adoption."

OpenSocial advocates also tend to speak favorably about CMIS, the Content Management Interoperability Services standard, and its potential for integrating enterprise document management systems with social software. A more formal integration between CMIS and OpenSocial is under discussion.

When I spoke with Box CEO Aaron Levie prior to his keynote at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, he dismissed CMIS as too oriented toward "legacy" technology rather than the spirit of open Web standards. This was part of a conversation in which Levie dissed OpenSocial using almost the same words that Pisoni did.

"If I had to bet, I wouldn't bet on OpenSocial," Levie said. Google and MySpace may have embraced it but since Facebook didn't, developers have had little reason to invest in OpenSocial, he said.

When I organized a Designing Social Applications panel discussion for the Enterprise 2.0 conference and show, I wound up with an OpenSocial-friendly crowd, including OpenSocial board member Jonathan LeBlanc and Jive Software's Ryan Rutan (one of the people saying nice things about CMIS).

LeBlanc told me he hears that dismissive talk about MySpace a lot. It's true the initial OpenSocial specification "had all these weird social features and profile things that didn't make sense in a larger context," he said, during our Enterprise 2.0 panel discussion. Essentially, that early spec made too many assumptions about how a social system would be constructed. To make OpenSocial relevant to a broader audience, its architects broke it down into smaller components, making it possible to adopt just the portions that are relevant to your applications. With OpenSocial 2.0, they have moved to map OpenSocial to a family of other relevant standards like OAuth and Activity Strea.ms. While OpenSocial may not be welcome at Facebook, MySpace and Google are far from its only fans, he said. It's widely used by social sites overseas, including the largest one in China, RenRen.

In the enterprise world, IBM has committed to supporting OpenSocial in multiple social software and collaboration products, with those releases to start coming in 2012. "For IBM to say that, that's big--a big, blue chip player in this space--and really lends credence" to OpenSocial, Rutan said. Because OpenSocial incorporates a common REST style of application integration, any well-built application ought to be able to integrate with the framework, he said. Most enterprise systems now offer REST interfaces, and even legacy applications can be adapted to include REST support, he said. Meanwhile, the rest of the OpenSocial specification is based on Web basics like HTML and JavaScript--making integration a much lower hurdle than with previous portal standards built around Java, for example.

Still, OpenSocial aspires to be an enterprise standard, influenced by companies like IBM who have worked to make sure it meets enterprise requirements. That may be precisely the reason it's treated with suspicion by upstarts who see themselves as more a part of Web 2.0 than Enterprise 2.0.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

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