Coming Soon: Social Network APIs

John Musser
Feb. 16 2007, 12:10AM EST

Recommended reading is Olag Kharif's brief report in this week's BusinessWeek on "Social-Networking Sites Open Up". It has the sub-head "Facebook, Friendster, and others are starting to let third-party developers build new features to attract more users - and profits". The article predicts many of the bigger social network sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, and Friendster will follow the lead of the Facebook API and make their networks available as web services.

What's the motivation?

Social-networking sites are realizing that if they want to grow their user base - and build a sustainable business model - they need to attract third-party developers. "Social networks have reached a point of maturity, and opening APIs will help them grow," explains Adam Trachtenberg, a senior manager for eBay. ... "Part of what's exciting about a developer community is you don't know what people are going to do," says Lucian Beebe, director of product management at LinkedIn, which is considering opening up its software. "It offers you the ability to harness innovation." ... "This is really just the tip of the iceberg," says Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive officer. "We realize we can never provide all applications [our users want]."

The other "why" factors cited are branding, traffic and revenue growth:

Whenever Google's map pops up on Yelp, so does the Google logo. "This is tied directly to branding and traffic," says Bret Taylor, a senior product manager at Google. Taylor also points out that new applications allow more people to discover your site, which can translate into greater revenues since more viewers mean higher ad rates.

After social network Friendster opened up its proprietary software to a select dozen or so developers six months ago, the number of unique visitors rose by 17.6%, to 18.8 million, in December, 2006. "This is our biggest [month-over-month] growth since launch," says Jeff Roberto, marketing director at Friendster. Now, for example, Friendster users can create slide shows of photos on Slide.com and then post them directly onto the social-networking site.

Given that social networking sites have until now been notoriously walled gardens, it will indeed be interesting to see how this year plays-out for them on the API front.

John Musser

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<strong>Coming Soon: Social Network APIs</strong>

Bud already posted "Map Your Buddies Catching a Trend?" In Addition to that, I read today on programmableweb.com some more interesting reasons, why “Social-Networking Sites Open Up” and offer API's. These are mentioned in the Coming Soon: Social...

lance

The day Myspace does something as forward-thinking as opening up an API I will be shocked. They seem to be deaf to what their more geeky users want.

carl

Just like other web 2.0 applications, social networking sites are changing, but with caution. Slashdot just started with job posting so lets see how successful the development of api will be.

[...] Yes, in reading this post from the ProgrammableWeb blog, I smiled to myself and thought in my head, &#8220;damn, that guy Marc Canter was right again&#8221;. During my time at Tribe.net, while Marc was consulting for us, if there was one mantra he would not get off of, it was &#8220;you need to open up the APIs, and things will be coolio&#8221;. He preached that developers wanted to do stuff and you needed to give them access for good things would happen. As the biz dev guy my first question was always, &#8220;but what&#8217;s the business model?&#8221;, to which there wasn&#8217;t a real good answer at the time. Well, ha-ha, the answer was there, just not so obvious to us at the time. Developers will build stuff that users will like and that will result in more users signing up, and that helps any business model. Don&#8217;t believe it? Here&#8217;s an excerpted quote from Jeff Roberto at Friendster on the ProgrammableWeb&#8217;s post: After social network Friendster opened up its proprietary software to a select dozen or so developers six months ago, the number of unique visitors rose by 17.6%, to 18.8 million, in December, 2006. “This is our biggest [month-over-month] growth since launch,” says Jeff Roberto, marketing director at Friendster. Now, for example, Friendster users can create slide shows of photos on Slide.com and then post them directly onto the social-networking site. [...]

[...] Yes, in reading this post from the ProgrammableWeb blog, I smiled to myself and thought in my head, “damn, that guy Marc Canter was right again”. During my time at Tribe.net, while Marc was consulting for us, if there was one mantra he would not get off of, it was “you need to open up the APIs, and things will be coolio”. He preached that developers wanted to do stuff and you needed to give them access for good things would happen. As the biz dev guy my first question was always, “but what’s the business model?”, to which there wasn’t a real good answer at the time. Well, ha-ha, the answer was there, just not so obvious to us at the time. Developers will build stuff that users will like and that will result in more users signing up, and that helps any business model. Don’t believe it? Here’s an excerpted quote from Jeff Roberto at Friendster on the ProgrammableWeb’s post: After social network Friendster opened up its proprietary software to a select dozen or so developers six months ago, the number of unique visitors rose by 17.6%, to 18.8 million, in December, 2006. “This is our biggest [month-over-month] growth since launch,” says Jeff Roberto, marketing director at Friendster. Now, for example, Friendster users can create slide shows of photos on Slide.com and then post them directly onto the social-networking site. [...]

Does ProgrammableWeb have any APIs yet? I assume this is just a case of me not knowing where to look etc. At least I hope that's the case!

Please clarify. There is a lot of valuable data in this data space that could do with some form of API level exposure.

Hi Kingsley, yes there's a couple of things so far: you can get the Mashup of the Day via this call which returns an XML representation including tags

http://www.programmableweb.com/motd

Also, while we haven't had resources to turn it into an official API yet, you can get interesting data from the JavaScript arrays in our matrix such as apiNames and mc, the mashup count at each grid intersection:

http://www.programmableweb.com/matrix

Check-out the interesting research done by Bala Iyer here to see what he's done with this data:

http://www.balaiyer.com/home/tabid/1475/bid/1100/Mashup-network-January-...

Click on his "picture" link for his pps visualization of the ecosystem growth over 15 months.

[...] There are many examples of popular websites where the reputation of a participant is playing an important role, often even representing a real commercial value. Think eBay, Amazon and Digg. It&#8217;s no news either that there are people trying to abuse existing reputation management systems and they often succeed. They are the crowdhackers. Current reputation management systems are not (yet) good enough, but they are increasingly important. A scientist quoted in this Wired article expects the ‘good guys’ to win over the ‘bad guys’ as long as they keep on developing the algorithms that determine the reputation of a person or item. Personally I would expect the trend to document our social network online to play an important role here as well (as long as these services open up), certainly combined with the continous monitoring of actual behavior of both people and websites, of which the just launched Spotflex is a great example. [...]

[...] Er zijn vele voorbeelden van populaire websites waarbij de reputatie van een participant een belangrijke rol speelt die commercieel gezien zelfs veel waarde heeft. Denk aan eBay, Amazon en Digg. Het is ook geen nieuws dat er velen zijn die proberen misbruik te maken van dergelijke systemen en vaak lukt dat ook. Crowdhackers worden die mensen ook wel genoemd. De huidige reputatiemanagementsystemen werken dus (nog) niet goed genoeg, maar ze worden wel steeds belangrijker. Een wetenschapper zegt in dit Wired artikel dat hij verwacht dat de &#8216;goeden&#8217; het altijd wel zullen winnen van de &#8216;kwaden&#8217; door het blijven doorontwikkelen van de algoritmes die de reputatie van een persoon of item bepalen. Zelf verwacht ik dat daarnaast de trend om ons sociale netwerk online vast te leggen nog wel eens een belangrijke rol kan gaan spelen in dit verhaal (maar dan moeten ze er wel voor open staan), zeker in combinatie met het langdurig volgen van daadwerkelijk gedrag van mensen en websites, waarvan het net gelanceerde Spotflex weer een mooi voorbeeld is. [...]

[...] graphs is one standard we need.  A standard for authentication is something we have already.  APIs for social networking are here and will expand out into areas like &#8216;widgetizaton&#8217; and virtual networks - and [...]