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Open Social gadgets now available on iGoogle

Google's personalized home page service now offers gadgets that allow users to share photos and videos as well as play games with friends using the Open Social API.

Google is ready to open up its iGoogle home page to the social world.

The company is expected to announce Wednesday that gadgets for iGoogle can now take advantage of the Open Social API to build social-networking features into the small little software programs that iGoogle users can use to customize their home pages, according to Marissa Mayer, vice president for search products and experience. For example, gadgets will now be available for Flickr, YouTube, and social games like Scrabble.

Google opened up the Open Social API to iGoogle developers last year, but only in the "sandbox," a protected area for experimentation. If developers like what they see, it could help turn iGoogle from a personalized home page for "tens of millions of users," according to Mayer, into sort of a mini social network.

For example, friends (who have to be iGoogle users) can share YouTube videos that will appear automatically on the iGoogle home screen if you choose to embed that gadget on your home page. You can also access a "stream" of updates and see all the different types of content your friends have shared recently.

That's exactly what Facebook's News Feed does for folks on that social network. Google downplayed attempts to compare this service directly to other sites like Facebook, but "we'd like people to see all of the 'push' content that they would like to see on this page," Mayer said. She was referring to content that is regularly updated and delivered to the user, as opposed to search, where a user "pulls" information from Google.

iGoogle users in Australia have been using these social gadgets for about a week. Games and news dominate the first crop of Open Social gadgets on iGoogle, with chess, Scrabble, The New York Times, Huffington Post, and NPR represented among the initial 14 applications from third parties.

The new iGoogle Open Social gadgets let you keep track of what your friends are up to online. Google