Ringside Networks brings open source to social networking

Start-up to launch Tuesday with server that runs Facebook applications and lets developers add social-networking features to existing Web sites.

Ringside Networks on Tuesday plans to announce an open-source server for running social applications on existing Web sites, Facebook, and other social-networking destinations in the future.

The company was founded by Bob Bickel, who helped direct open-source Java company JBoss, and funded by David Skok, a venture capitalist and former board member of JBoss.

The idea is to make it easier to add social application features, like user profiles, friends, and groups, to existing Web sites and to create close interoperability with Facebook, where there are 19,000 third-party applications.

Applications written for Ringside Networks' "social application engine" will run on Facebook. People can also share information with Facebook, such as user log-ins.

In the second quarter, it will be integrated with the OpenSocial specification, which will allow the server to tap into other social networks such as MySpace.com, Orkut, and Bebo, Bickel said Monday.

Once an application is ported from Facebook to Ringside's server, users will be able to update personal information to both places at once or see their friends. A Facebook application could be hosted on another Web site or run as an embedded gadget.

"This is really important because a lot of Web sites have lots of users who have given lots of information about themselves like credit cards and buying histories. What (those Web site owners) want to do is build their own social graph to try to pick up patterns--who is friends with who, who is recommending what to whom," Bickel said.

The company will give away its application server for free under the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) and plans to make money selling analytic tools. A planned commerce server will let developers sell ads for their applications or charge for payments.

Ringside's technology will provide a common set of services, much like Java application servers do for server Java applications, according to Bickel. He said the social application server's services will be authentication, running a single application on multiple Web sites, and federating social graphs to show connections between people.

Bickel, who conceived of the company while making a site for runners, said he tried but found Ning too difficult to add social features to his site and federate data from different sources.

The company plans to release the code for its server on Tuesday at the Open Source Business Conference, which is taking place in San Francisco. A developer who ported a Facebook application for runners, called Runilicious, to Ringside's server plans to launch his application on Tuesday.

 

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