OpenSocial and the Google Patent Filings

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Over the past few months, Google has been publishing a number of patent applications about adding customized applications (modules) from third party developers (sources other than Google) to a wide variety of personalized web pages.

These seemed to cover much more than the creation of add-on content for Google’s personalized homepage, though they use that page as an example. Just who were the third party developers mentioned? Who would be the non-Google suppliers of data described?

The filings made more sense after Google announced their Opensocial program — OpenSocial makes the web better. These patent documents don’t use the term “opensocial” but they describe something very similar to Google’s offering.

  • Message catalogs for remote modules (20070245310); Inventors: Justin Rosenstein, Filipe Almeida, Dylan Parker, Adam Sah, and Erik Arvidsson; Published October 18, 2007; Filed July 11, 2006.

What role do these patent filings play in Opensocial? I don’t know for sure, but the Google documentation for Opensocial note that the standard is partially based upon Google Gadgets technology.

While we don’t know what role these documents play in the development of Opensocial, there are some aspects of processes described in the patent filings that I haven’t seen mentioned in the coverage of Opensocial:

1. There’s an analysis function process described that might block people from finding and using unsafe modules

2. Module creation wizards might be available to help content developers creat new modules.

3. These applications/modules may be available within iframes, or provided inline.

4. An ad server may provide advertisements contextually associated with modules to containers, possibly through adsense.

5. Geocodes might provide latitude and longitude numeric values for geographic locations, and generate map outputs from mapping systems such as Google Maps and Google Earth.

6. Modules might be offered in “small” versions of applications for display on smaller screens for different types of handheld devices, as well as video game consoles and television overlays.

7. Some modules might by default be minimalized and become visible only under certain circumstances, such as a weather module that stays minimalized unilt there is unusual or extreme weather, or a traffic module which doesn’t become visible unless a relevant traffic alert occurs.

8. A few different methods for updating (third party) modules are described within the patent application.

Other sources of information on Opensocial

Google Resources:

Google Code — OpenSocial
Google Code — Frequently Asked Questions
Google Code — OpenSocial API Documentation
Opensocial API Blog — Campfire One: taking social applications to new frontiers
Youtube Video — Campfire One: Introducing OpenSocial
Opensocial API Blog
Google Group — OpenSocial Forum

Some Other Resources and Commentary:

TechCrunch — Details Revealed: Google OpenSocial To Launch Thursday
Search Engine Journal — Can the Party of Six a.k.a OpenSocial Beat Facebook?
Google Operating System — OpenSocial, Google’s APIs for Social Applications
Jeremiah Owyang — Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives
Dare Obasanjo — OpenSocial: Google Proposes Widget & RESTful API Standards for Social Networking Sites
Search Engine Land — OpenSocial: Led By Google, Social Networks Band To Take On Facebook

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3 thoughts on “OpenSocial and the Google Patent Filings”

  1. I am very curious to see how this is going to affect Facebook, if at all. It would be nice to see a similar platform for applications with the social networks. Sort of makes writing code a bit easier.

    But Facebook is huge, and there are already many apps from the Facebook API.

    This should be pretty good.


  2. Hi Mike,

    It’s been entertaining so far. There does seem to be a good deal of potential for people who get involved now to have their applications in front of a lot of people.

    I’m also wondering if and when the adsense tie-in referred to in the patent applications makes an appearance.

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