Paul Lopez Unwired

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Results tagged “api”

AndroidTwitter.jpgThere's a lot of commotion lately about Twitter launching its own client applications of what I would call "house apps" for platforms like the iPhone, Blackberry and today the Android. While many developers have outstanding Twitter clients, the better ones come with a price. Now that Twitter has introduced more of its own client apps free of charge, those early third-party apps quickly lose their value proposition. Some believe the trend could hurt companies like Seesmic or Twitterific. Developers will need to come up with ways to structure their applications to offer other benefits besides just connecting APIs. This is no different than what Microsoft did in the early days. Microsoft grew to domination in the desktop market on the backs of third party developers. Old applications like Harvard Graphics, WordStar, VisiCalc and dBASE were the early pioneers before we had MS Office. No one should be surprised with Twitter's actions, it's part of the software growth lifecycle. Developers will adapt and Twitter will do what fuels its own business growth. I see no problem with that.
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When Facebook Connect launched last year, there was much criticism that still lingers today. Providing the status.get API method is not enough, they still keep everything in a locked box. A Wall Street Journal article says Facebook will be announcing new developer access to photos and videos, but I believe it will be something more. What we may see is access to the crown jewels of Facebook - Feeds and Shared Items. This would allow users to access their Facebook services from potentially a different site altogether - quite a risky idea. Twitter has taken a different approach from the beginning by opening core features to developers without requiring a customized programming language like Facebook FMBL or Facebook Connect. Most observers agree that Connect doesn't necessarily generate new users but increases the level of engagement with your existing ones. The value of opening up "Shared" is that Facebook enforces network location whereas Twitter does not. You could filter stories based on geographic location more accurately because "Dallas, TX" and "DFW" mean the same thing on Facebook but not on Twitter. We need to see how they open up Feed. The default privacy settings are too restrictive to be useful to developers unless it is set to "Everyone." This is a critical time for Facebook and its 200 million members; they could become just another service connection hub by accident.

Twitter Viva la Vida

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According to Comscore data, Facebook added 40 million members in February. Meanwhile, MySpace is half the size today where a year ago both were serving over 115 million people per month. Today, Facebook serves over 275 million monthly unique visitors. While Steve Rubel claims Twitter is peaking as it recently jumped to 4 million monthly visitors from 2.6 million in one month, I don't see it. Many corporations have recently included their Twitter handle in their press releases, and it's getting more business users. There are an estimated 520 Twitter applications. The only thing that would slow them down is persistent service outage or lack of a viable monetization plan. They recently raised $35 million at a $250 million valuation, not bad. The key difference I see is their phenomenal success with the Twitter API proliferation. They got this right from the get-go as opposed to the starts & stops of Facebook. Twitter has a live of its own and is rapidly reaching critical mass.

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HTML5 is an optimistic standards effort designed to bring all browsers, markup languages and plug-in APIs under one common industry framework. There has been an accelerated effort in technologies designed to make SaaS more robust by making web applications "behave" more like fat desktop applications. Concerns about connectivity, web response time and user experience have tapered the widespread adoption of these applications in the enterprise. Most success has occurred in the consumer/social web space. One promising development is the proliferation storage APIs. This facility creates a small database that is installed on the end user's client machine to enable access to application features normally operated while connected to the Internet. The one year old Google Gears is making some headway. MySpace has integrated Gears into its messaging application. Yahoo has introduced BrowserPlus in an effort to challenge both Google and Adobe Air. The idea is to have a web application accessible from the user's desktop much like a tray application or a native OS-based executable. One Yahoo demo allows users to edit photos on a desktop with Flickr before uploading to the web thereby increasing the speed and performance of such an operation. Most RIA APIs provide three things: a local database ("SQL Light"), a local object caching mechanism for images or web pages and thread pools to allow asynchronous tasks to occur in the background. These are the integral components of the architecture that enables a rich user experience. Go check out Buzzword.com for an Adobe example of a word processor written entirely in Flex. This brings us back to HTML5. Microsoft, Adobe and others (like CURL) are pushing ahead using some of the storage APIs from HTML5 but leaving other parts of the standard on the shelf. Apple has supported the Webkit open source project with Safari and has re-engineered their own site (removed Adobe Flash & PDFs) by using Ajax instead of proprietary alternatives. It will become increasingly difficult to try to adopt some kind of standard; HTML4 was probably the most successful. Innovation is very impatient with the standards process altogether I'm afraid. Being locked in to a proprietary approach may continue to inhibit the adoption in the enterprise. Most IT shops will choose to utilize a best of breed approach for specific RIA implementations in the short term.

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The Facebook Open Platform is finally available a year after they announced it to developers. Back then, it was heralded as "Anti-MySpace" by opening up APIs to third party developers where MySpace had been closed.  Opening up any platform to a multitude of application developers is a two-edged sword. Many users' affection for the novel applications wear off and they begin to tire of the excessive spam associated with their promotion. Facebook says more than 24,000 applications have been built by over 400,000 developers. Google's OpenSocial took a different track by not requiring a special markup language (Facebook uses FBML) and that makes development much easier. Key partners for OpenSocial are AOL, Yahoo, Myspace, LinkedIN, Orkut, Salesforce.com, Plaxo and many others. The New York Times even uses it to allow users the ability to share articles with friends in their social graph.

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 As mentioned here before, the key to success with social networking "openness" will be the ability to federate user privacy, profiles, preferences and the whole dimension of data and application portability. A new twist on social networking and a company thinking a little different is SkyDeck. They allow you to turn your phone bill into a map of your social network. The APIs utilize OAuth for secure API authentication and they've come out of the gate with a developer kit even though they are in closed beta. Is everyone racing for the bottom yet?

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I didn't get an invitation to the Web 2.0 summit this year; instead I got a nice email from "the team" to attend the upcoming event in Berlin or Japan. It would have been a chance to see Steve Ballmer, Marissa Mayer (from Google) and Mark Zuckerberg all in one place. The invitation would have given me the opportunity to spend the $3600 for a ticket. We'll gear up for next year. Zuckerberg was reported saying "it's almost wrapped up" when asked how his recent funding activity was going. Rupert Murdoch and Chris DeWolfe announced that they will be opening up MySpace to developers.

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Facebook set the pace when they opened up their site back in April. Since then they have had 100,000 developers who have delivered 6,000 applications to their site. That's a lot of development, not to mention the programs or widgets that didn't make it. One open issue remains. Will MySpace allow the porting of their user data to other applications? As discussed before on this blog, the whole issue about how to federate personal information aka "social graph" is unresolved. Google and others are attempting to create standards. The recent announcement of online medical

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repositories by Microsoft and Google is alarming to some privacy watchers. Google has created a health advisory council to give some street cred to their proposal. Personal information should always remain in control of the person, not the system. When you allow the signup process at a social networking site to access your personal phone book or email, you can undermine your own security. Some people have experienced receiving emails from people who were asked to join their network without remembering they invited them in the first place. Don't let the world enter your network without a "tickie."

About Paul Lopez

Paul Lopez Paul Lopez is a 20+ year technology veteran whose career has spanned multiple disciplines such as product management, software development, engineering, marketing, business development and operations... read more

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