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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spreading OpenSocial Across the Web


Any web site can be a container for OpenSocial, any web site can add social features even if it's not a social network - that seems to be the idea behind Friend Connect, a new piece from Google's social puzzle. Friend Connect will allow the users of a site to add profiles, to import their friends from other social networks, to use social applications in the context of a site.

Paul Buchheit wrote last year that "there's no such thing as a social network". The social aspect of a site is just one of its many features. "Real products need more functionality in order to somehow deliver value to their users. It is this other functionality that defines the real purpose of a product, not the social network, which exists only to enable or enhance the core purpose."

Friend Connect is an enabler for making web sites more social, since the barrier to entry is really low. "First, many website owners want to add features that enable their visitors to do things with their friends, but the technology and resource hurdles have been too high. Second, people are tiring of needing to create new logins and profiles and recreate their friends lists wherever they go on the web." Google will use OpenID or Google Accounts for authentication, OAuth or APIs like Facebook Connect, MySpace Data Availability to find your friends from other social networks and OpenSocial gadgets to interact with your friends.

"Social is in the air. It's the blossoming of a lot of work by a lot of people. We don't move in lockstep and don't need to. We converge on interoperable technology. There's more than one way to connect a site to the social Web. With Friend Connect, we're confident it's a good step forward. I'm sure there will be more ways to do that than what Friend Connect does. We wanted to start with easiest and safest starting point," said Google's David Glazer in a conference call.

A preview of Friend Connect will be available later today at http://www.google.com/friendconnect (update: the page is live) and the service should be launched in a couple of months.




Google Maps Adds Real Estate Search


As a Google employee recently said, "Google Maps is evolving from a driving directions and business search tool, to a comprehensive representation of all the world's information, on a map." That's why Google Maps started to integrate different layers of information when you search for an address and it added a new "More" button to enable layers for photos and Wikipedia articles. Google Maps now includes in search results personalized maps, geolocated content from the web and mapped web pages.

There's a new option to search for real estate: click on "show search options" and select "real estate" from the drop-down. The search results don't seem to be powered by come from Google Base. Google shows structured information about houses and lets you refine the results by price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Even if there aren't too many advanced features, it's interesting to see that Google Maps wants to index all the information that could be displayed on a map.

Many real estate sites use Google Maps API and the first Google Maps mashup was HousingMaps, a site that displays Craigslist housing listings on a map. Last month, Trulia was one of the first sites that integrated Google Street View "to add efficiency to the real estate search experience and help home buyers discover more information about particular neighborhoods".

(The post was updated to reflect that the data is obtained from Google Base.)

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