Put Facebook on your Web site, says startup

Social networking is either a huge threat to information security or an unmissable opportunity for companies to overhaul their internal communication

Open source startup, Ringside Networks, has launched this week with the aim of persuading companies to embrace social networking by building it into their own Web sites.

The company's big story is its Social Application Server, still in beta but available for trial download, which lets companies integrate Facebook applications into Web sites.

One of the earliest such applications on the market, the Social Application Server can run applications built to work with Facebook APIs to do a number of things, including allowing developers to build and run their own apps or simply use the ones that come with the software. These cover bases such as Facebook "user profiles, friends, groups, comments, ratings, favorites, events, etc."

Future versions would work with other platforms such as MySpace, hi5, orkut, and Bebo, the company said.

"Companies have spent far too much time and effort building their brands, Web sites, content and applications to hand over social networking to some third party," said company founder Bob Bickel in a statement.

"Ringside Networks gives them a way to get control over this important new way of interacting with their users and customers, while still being able to tie into the big social networks."

Depending on who you listen to, social networking is either a huge threat to information security or an unmissable opportunity for companies to overhaul their internal communication. Sceptics worry about the casual way people offer up valuable personal information that could turn out to be vulnerable to theft, while a growing band of enthusiasts point to the way social networking can unlock the most socially inept of corporates. In the end, it could turn out to be a matter of prevailing intellectual fashion.

One advantage of this particular take on that fashion, however, is the open source nature of Ringside's server, released under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). The company points out that, unlike previous corporate software waves built on proprietary code this offers transparency, good for security in the long run.

The software can be downloaded from the company's Web site.

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John E. Dunn

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