Yahoo, Google, MySpace form OpenSocial foundation

OpenSocial Foundation is Yahoo's first link to effort launched last fall by Google, MySpace

MySpace and Google Tuesday launched a new foundation to foster support for the OpenSocial specifications for building social applications that work across the Web.

The announcement of the new OpenSocial Foundation marks Yahoo's first involvement with the OpenSocial project, which was launched by MySpace and Google in November. OpenSocial includes a set of APIs to help developers more easily make social applications work on multiple social networks.

So far, Google's Orkut social network and MySpace have begun deploying applications built on OpenSocial.

The new independent, non-profit foundation is creating its own formal intellectual property and governance framework that will provide operational guidelines around technology, documentation, intellectual property and other issues related to the evolution of OpenSocial, representatives from the three companies said Tuesday.

"We believe common sets of specifications, tools and industry collaboration are beneficial to the developer community at large," said Wade Chambers, Yahoo's vice president of platforms. "We also believe this is another way to complement our rich set of developer tools. We see the emergence of a more social Web as a significant value for users."

When asked specifically if Yahoo would welcome Microsoft to the foundation, Chambers said that "any large player should be welcome to participate."

Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google, brushed aside questions about whether the foundation was formed to allay any fears that Google had undue influence over Yahoo in the development of OpenSocial. He noted that "all successful community-driven specifications it seems have a process and mechanism for ensuring the ongoing development of that specification and making sure it stays ... free and unencumbered. The foundation's primary job will be to provide a safe harbor for IP ... and to make sure the OpenSocial spec continues to be community driven."

He added that about 200 million potential users will have access to OpenSocial applications next week after hi5Networks launches its new offerings.

For its part, MySpace has made applications built on OpenSocial available via a "soft launch" for the past two weeks, noted Steve Pierman, senior vice president of product strategy. "Today we're looking at thousands of [OpenSocial] developers, and hundred of applications," he said. "The users seem to be pretty delighted with the applications they are able to engage with. It is ramping up pretty dramatically."

Other members of OpenSocial community include Engage.com, Friendster, Hyves, Imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo and Xing.

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Heather Havenstein

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