iGoogle is a social being

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 12:56 PM

If you've been a devoted reader of this blog you're probably no stranger to the idea that "social is better" when it comes to the web. Activities such as reading the news, doing a crossword puzzle, sharing a todo list, or watching a video are all better when done with a friend. Coincidentally, these are all things that iGoogle users love to do, so bringing social to iGoogle is a logical next step.

Developers have had a chance to sneak a peek at what iGoogle has been doing in the social space for many months, in the iGoogle developer sandbox. As of today, social gadgets taking advantage of the OpenSocial API will now work in both the US and Australia, with other countries soon to follow. That's tens of millions of iGoogle users with access to social gadgets, if you're keeping count.

Of course, iGoogle is a little bit different than most of the sites which support OpenSocial, so here's a quick rundown of the differences:
  1. An iGoogle page is personal, and not shared with other users. In OpenSocial terms, this means that VIEWER and OWNER are always the same person.
  2. Friendship between two users may be non-mutual. This allows developers to use a "following" model in their applications. For cases where it's important to verify mutual friendship (sharing private data, for instance), developers can use the isFriendsWith filter when requesting the user's mutual friends.
  3. iGoogle has users without canvas view, with canvas view but without social, and with social, all at the same time. And, some users sign in to use iGoogle while others remain signed out. Developers should make sure their gadgets work gracefully across feature sets so that users always have the optimal experience. This blog post provides more details and an example gadget for checking different cases.
  4. iGoogle supports organic growth of applications with two mechanisms.
    • Application sharing (via requestShareApp), allows developers to reach a wider audience by encouraging users to engage their friends inside of a given application. By default, requestShareApp will list all of the user's Friends and users can auto invite new friends by email. iGoogle will email recipients without iGoogle accounts, or present a notification within the UI to existing iGoogle users to add the gadget and become friends.
    • Updates (via requestCreateActivity), allow developers to call out specific user actions, to share them with a wider audience. There is a current limit of 3 updates per user, per app, per day, which may be increased in the future.
To see some great examples of new (or upgraded) gadgets using social features, check out this page. Then, when you're ready, take a look at the getting started guide for details on writing your own social gadgets for iGoogle. As always, if you have questions, please visit us in the iGoogle Developer Forum.