Google To Close Social Graph API, Not OpenSocial

A cool way of seeing how pages are interconnected socially is being shut down. Google says its Social Graph API is being retired.

Social Graph API Closes In April

The news came in a blog post today:

This API makes information about the public connections between people on the web available for developers. The API isn’t experiencing the kind of adoption we’d like, and is being deprecated as of today. It will be fully retired on April 20, 2012.

The Social Graph API is a way for web pages to declare — in an automated way — social connections between themselves. For example, your blog might link to your Twitter page. Behind the scenes, the link is done in a way helpful to those developing social products to know that there’s a social connection between the two.

This past article from our sister site Search Engine Land explains more: Mine The Web’s Socially-Tagged Links: Google Social Graph API Launched.

You can also still see how this works through the Social Graph API using this Google tool. It’s pretty amazing what it can illustrate, such as what I get after entering the home page for my personal blog:

OpenSocial Stays Active

An earlier version of this story questioned if the closure of the Social Graph API also effectively meant that OpenSocial was also being closed.

Back in 2007, worried that too much of the web’s social information was being locked behind Facebook’s walls, Google launched OpenSocial. It was designed to be an “open” way of sharing social data, as the Open Social home page says:

OpenSocial defines a common API for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can create apps that access a social network’s friends and update feeds.

But the Social Graph API isn’t part of the OpenSocial effort, says Google, which told me:

Though the names are similar, Social Graph API is unrelated to OpenSocial.

The Social Graph API was a means to access a crawl we did of XFN and other public graph data.

OpenSocial is a standard set of APIs for embedding social gadgets in websites.

They’re both APIs, but APIs to different data, satisfying different use cases.

Google Tapping Into The Google+ Graph

I still find it disappointing that the Social Graph API is being closed. It gives me the impression that since Google now has its own social data within the walls of Google+, it’s less interested having an “open” system that anyone can use to share social data.

One example of this is here:

That’s what I see when I visit my page on Google where it reveals what it knows about me socially (you can check your own here).

Until last week’s launch of Search Plus Your World, this data came from the Social Graph API. But now, as Kevin Marks points out, it has shifted to using just what Google+ knows about my social connections.

From the text on that page:

With Search plus Your World, we have adopted the Google+ Circles social connections model.

If you aren’t a Google+ user, the people you’ll find in search results are based on the same signals used for people suggestions in Google+.

If you are a Google+ user, you can now manage your connections right on the results page, or in the Google+ Circles editor.

Again, prior to last week, Google was pushing the idea that anyone could tap into a common set of social connections to build things like social search. Using this type of open information, in fact, was something that Facebook mistakenly tried to paint as some type of Google “scraping” last year.

Now it doesn’t matter. Rather that tap into an open social graph, Google has its own “closed” graph it can use — just like Facebook.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Google: Google+ | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Euan Adie

    I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. The Social Graph API isn’t anything to do with OpenSocial, which in any case is an open standard not controlled by Google any more. Check out the relevant Wikipedia page for background…

  • Josh Jacobson

    That is correct. Google still supports many OpenSocial features (email gadgets, widgets), and OpenSocial itself is a completely separate entity with a board that includes other companies.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I’ve updated the headline to clarify this more, Euan. The story did say that these are two different things, and that since OpenSocial is about social APIs, this seems to be killing off OpenSocial, even if that’s not said. Google sent a statement saying they’re unrelated, and I asked for further clarification. Been over two hours now, still no word.

  • Kevin Marks

    Danny, I’m happy to explain both to you if you like. They are independent implementations that have some ideas in common. 
    OpenSocial is a common set of APIs for talking to sites that contain social data. 
    The Social Graph API provides access to the publicly connected links between sites for an individual via rel=”me” or for friends via rel=”friend” etc XFN relationships. It’s what Google used for the pre Google+ social search. you know, this one:
    I should do a blogpost on why this is a shame, shouldn’t I.

  • Euan Adie

    Yes, true, the story did make it clear and your point about Google+ cancelling out the need for open, shared networks stood in any case. Thanks for updating the headline though. 

    Wouldn’t be completely unsurprising if Google *did* jettison any use or support for OpenSocial, it never really went mainstream…

  • Anonymous

    As it happens, Google just delivered a new UI for iGoogle, which is powered by OpenSocial.

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see OpenSocial-powered Google Plus gadgets appearing in people’s streams (similar to Wave gadgets for polls etc) …

  • Kristine Schachinger

    The reasons behind this are most likely Google as a Trusted Identity Provider for the NSTIC. As Eric Schmidt G+ is an identity Network. They were credentialed in October. Once they begin to officially launch as a trusted provider the amount of data they would collect would pardon the colloquialism “freak people out”  – would also be irresponsible to share.

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