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Ning's OpenSocial support goes live

The social-network builder now has a directory of about 30 applications built with the open-source technology.

Social-network builder Ning has deployed its support for developer applications for OpenSocial, something that it has been planning to do since Google kick-started the open-source project nearly a year ago. (It is now an independent organization.)

A Ning profile with the OpenSocial 'BuddyPoke' app added. Ning

As part of the launch, a directory of 30 applications will be available for Ning members to embed in their profiles, which they use for any of the hundreds of thousands of networks created with Ning. They'll have variable "skins" to adopt the design of the profile around them and blend in, the company has said. Incorporation into the OpenSocial app directory on Ning will be selective, so it won't be a developer free-for-all.

A few OpenSocial apps had gone live on Ning in beta over the past year, including one from social music service (which is owned by CNET News publisher CBS Interactive).

You still can't embed OpenSocial apps on Ning networks, just profiles--but that will change, CEO Gina Bianchini said to CNET News, when future versions of OpenSocial (the current one is 0.7) are developed. "In its first incarnation, it looks and feels a lot like what you'd be doing on a MySpace profile or on a Facebook profile in terms of adding apps," she explained, "but what's unique about us is that we have half a million social networks and they'll want an app for their network as well."

From the Future of Web Apps conference in London, Google engineer Kevin Marks praised the incorporation of Ning into OpenSocial, which he helped build. "The nice thing about Ning is that we're going from about 100 social networks to about 500,000 social networks," Marks said to CNET News.

The question still remains, though as to whether Ning would opt to support Facebook applications--still not compatible with OpenSocial--the way social network Friendster has.

"We'd love to support Facebook apps," said Bianchini, who co-founded Ning with veteran entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. "Right now, Facebook hasn't neccessarily set it up in a really clear, programmatic way...(Facebook) has talked about it, then came back from it, and it's a little bit in limbo right now in terms of really what and how they would want other social networks to support Facebook apps."