Now it’s getting interesting – distributed social networking

Two exciting and (relatively) new projects this morning for those interested in social network portability, the social graph, and related concepts: Apache Shindig and DiSo. Both are critical, necessary, and sizable building blocks pointing in the direction of a free (as in freedom AND beer), open, portable, distributed social network infrastructure.

Shindig first, direct from the OpenSocial API Blog “Let’s get this Shindig Started“:

Shindig is a new project in the Apache Software Foundation’s incubator (as per the formal proposal) that aims to provide an open source reference implementation of the entire OpenSocial stack — Shindig’s goal is to allow new sites to start hosting social apps in well under an hour’s worth of work.

This am was the initial commit to the Shindig svn repository. In other words, there’s already code, in the best open source fashion:

This commit represents initial versions of the first two components, the Gadget Container JavaScript and the Gadget Server — the latter written in Java. The Gadget Container JavaScript provides code to generate IFRAMES pointing to, offers some basic gadgets functionality (e.g. dynamic height), a layout manager, the edit dialog box, a cookie-based user preferences store, and an option to point IFRAMES at your Gadget Server instance instead of The initial Gadget Server provides extensible scaffolding for processing gadgets: retrieving XML, parsing it, and processing it into a form that allows rendering of the gadget to a user or retrieval of its metadata.

I won’t likely have time today (or tomorrow for that matter) to dive into this, but it is great to have some actually code in advance of the holiday week.

The second project I’m excited about this morning is DiSo, which is Chris Messina, Will Norris, Steve Ivy and others working on a social networking platform “with its skin inside out,” starting with WordPress as a platform. It’s a chance to take the concept of using XFN, hCard, OpenID, OAuth, FOAF, and related microformats and open standards to create a truly distributed social network.

(See also GigaOm’s coverage from Tuesday which I just found through the news feed in my WordPress dashboard – The Next Social Network: WordPress)

Glad to see both of these projects kicking off in the transparency of the open source world – gives me good hope that we’ll actually make some significant progress on the social network portability front.


  1. Good post John – Makes me almost regret getting a little ahead of the curve with this in my enterprise apps. Everyone and their sister is baking profiles/networks in to their platforms (see MTCS, ConnectBeam, SharePoint, Confluence, etc.), and I’m hoping Shindig and DiSo have a shot at commoditizing and standardizing the space so all content apps can plug in to the social graph (aka: the new middleware).

  2. You might want to know of another implementation of a distributed social network, named Minerva. At this moment it comes as a WordPress plugin and enables a self hosted WordPress blog to be a part of an ad-hoc social network. Best part, it doesn’t depend on OpenId (nor any other 3rd party for authentication) and it’s open source as well.

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