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Google brews mashier OpenSocial language

For all your Web 2.0 ills - except people and Facebook

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Google I/O A decision on whether to press ahead with a re-usable architecture from Google to simplify the development of applications spanning multiple social networks is due in the next few days.

Members of Google's OpenSocial project are next week expected to vote on a proposal for a new template language that'll be used to build tags for use with OpenSocial. OpenSocial defines common APIs for applications across multiple sites using JavaScript and XML.

Google told its I/O conference Thursday tags will assist in development of applications that pull in data and feeds from different social networks such as MySpace and contacts-database-in-the-sky LinkedIn. It'll also lock down Web 2.0 apps against cross-site scripting (XXS), the company claimed.

Google's hope is for a core set of between five and 10 tags to eventually be devised and that these will be used to measure compliance of developers' applications with the OpenSocial specification. The search giant expects a community of non-core tags to also evolve.

Explaining the tags, Google OpenSocial developer Evan Gilbert said they could specify the position of a picture in a social network page or a user's account data could be displayed when somebody reading the page mouses over the picture.

Tags will, according to Gilbert who proposed the templates idea, reduce the amount of code needed for development, and will see HTML rendered by the social network rather than the browser. In a demo 18 lines of HTML were shrunk to six after they'd been run through a tag. Tags will also speed performance, by offering sever-side optimizations that batch-up requests to the server instead of issuing them individually.

As to security, Gilbert promised tags would be completely free of XXS problems. That is unless - of course - "developers work explicitly around XXS protections". Oh, yeah - that old thing: people doing stuff with the technology the inventor hadn't intended.

XXS is a huge swinging door in Web 2.0 applications that nobody seems willing to acknowledge is wide open at evangelical events like Google's two-day I/O conference.

It's also not clear when this programming manna will descend from Heaven.

This being the Google community - where things emerge organically and software is in permanent beta - there's nothing so fascist as an OpenSocial roadmap. Also, a "yes" vote would only open the door to the next phase - building the language. A spec and implementation are expected on, or after, June 9.

David Glazer, Google's director of engineering, told I/O the plan had been for inclusion in OpenSocial 0.8 but that specification is now finished - if the implementation is not actually stable. Glazer told Reg Dev the language could appear in 0.9.

Meanwhile, it seems the Apache Software Foundation's Shindig incubator project, building an open source social network architecture based on OpenSocial, will use version 8.0 of the API. Shindig is almost completely manned by Google engineers. Glazer said Shindig is "more than half-way" towards compliance with OpenSocial 0.8.

Google product manager Dan Peterson predicted social networks would continue to use version 0.7 of OpenSocial for a while, unless they want RESTful API development right away. RESTful APIs were featured in version 8.0. Those who do want REST will move to the new OpenSocial during the next few months, he said.

Those committed to OpenSocial include AOL which this week announced it's going to adopt OpenSocial on myAOL.com. AOL joins LinkedIn, MySpace and Marc Andreessen's Ning among a mish-mash-up of others committed to OpenSocial.

Missing from this hit list is teen social networking sensation Facebook, which has been sparring with Google over the ability of the search giant's Friend Connect service to suck out its users' details.®

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