XING kills applications — so what for OpenSocial, LinkedIn and Facebook apps?

24/05/2011 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

Germany’s XING won’t be supporting existing OpenSocial based application in its forthcoming redesign. Have applications on social networks failed?


It feels like a long time ago that I last wrote about OpenSocial, an Open Standards based approach to embedding applications within other websites.  So long ago that I can no longer find the blog article, but if I recall correctly I was commenting on how OpenSocial, backed by Google as it did its bit to support technology that could be widely used across the Social Web, didn’t seem to be getting much adoption.  Certainly from Facebook (itself a lot smaller and less significant a player back then than now) and the many thousands of applications developers writing to its proprietary platform.

There were a few exceptions and XING, Germany’s answer to LinkedIn, was one of them.  It leapt on the applications bandwagon but made a thing of how it was supporting OpenSocial and Open Standards.  Well, a couple of years further on it looks like it’s had enough.  With the new site redesign coming June 2011, applications will be discountinued: “Unfortunately the demand for applications within a business context has not developed as promising as we had hoped, so we have decided to stop offering applications on XING” explains the XING team in a news update to users.

Goodbye Slideshare, Huddle and a few other applications.  Well, if you want to use them on the XING site anyway.  Access will still be available on the vendors own sites, but the point of putting them into XING was that so you share and collaborate with your network of contacts.  Which people don’t seem that interested in doing.

This announcement got me wondering when it was I last heard anything about OpenSocial, a standard that was all about easily sharing applications and associated data between Social Web sites and users.  Er, not recently.  So I did a Google News check and found not many recent articles, with few vendors talking about OpenSocial other than SAP (which is far from leading edge when it comes to the Social Web).  Is it dead?  Well, if it’s not dead, it’s resting…

But this comes as no suprise because when we started looking at embedding applications to our own WeCanDo.Biz website, OpenSocial seemed like a lot of hard work with dubious benefits, other than tthe ability to say we’d be doing our bit for Open Standards on the Web.  That wasn’t good enough so we built in WeCanDo.Biz Social CRM using proprietary APIs.  I don’t think uptake amongst our users would have been any greater if we’d gone the OpenSocial route.

No, it would seem people may not be quite as interested in integrated applications as we all thought.  Ask youself, when was the last time you saw someone sharing a presentation through Slideshare on LinkedIn?  Or inviting you into a Huddle workspace there?  OK, I use LinkedIn’s Twitter and WordPress integrations to include my latest tweets and blog articles on my profile, but I set them up once and have never touched them since, so you can’t say I actually use those integrated applications.  How long will LinkedIn continue to support applications for as they develop their site with the fresh cash injection a recent IPO has brough them?

Does Facebook buck the trend?  Well, a bit.  Apps have been all the rage there since they were first introduced, especially gaming apps.  But people grow tired of games and amongst my friends, at least, the craze of adding a new This or new That seems to have waned.  With FBML now retired, Facebook is seeing more and more companies just embed pages from their own websites into iframes in Facebook pages.  This is a much simpler approach than developing applications which have to meet complex Open Standards or — as has been more typical on Facebook — specific to only Facebook and which could stop working at any time as Facebook changes its core code without telling anyone.

So we may be witnessing the death of social applications as we knew them.  But does that make us any less keen to share or collaborate?  Is the actual issue that we don’t want to do as much with our social contacts as vendors believed we would?

What do you think?  Share your thoughts below.


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