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You couldn’t do this with proprietary softwareMatthew Aslett, April 7, 2008 @ 11:10 am ET
Late last week I had the chance to participate in a call with Bob Bickel and Rich Friedman of Ringside Networks who talked us through their plans for the new open source social networking technology vendor.
In short, Ringside’s Social Application Server is designed to add social networking capabilities to existing applications and content. It does this providing hooks into enterprise data sources while delivering compatibility and interoperability with Facebook applications via the Facebook API, while support for Google and MySpace’s OpenSocial is also on its way.
What this means, at least at first, is that Facebook applications can run on any websites that use Ringside, while new applications developed using Ringside can also run on Facebook as well as the developer’s own site.
Given the open nature of social networking APIs I wondered what technical benefit Ringside might gain from being open source. While the open source distribution model gets the startup’s software in the hands of the user and developer community as quickly as possible, couldn’t the same thing be done via free downloads of proprietary code?
The response was pretty emphatic: you just couldn’t do what Ringside is doing with proprietary software, according to Bob and Rich. As an explanation they discussed their hopes for getting Facebook application developers not just using Ringside for application development, but contributing to the development of the Social Application Server itself.
The plug-ins for enterprise data sources should also benefit from the open source model. Ringside is having discussions with wiki and content management application vendors already, but is looking forward to vendors and individual developers stepping up to contribute and help develop plug-ins.
While plug-in development would still happen with a proprietary development model, the choice of data source would always be driven by the business goals and relationships of Ringside, rather than the developer community. The open source development model means that the user and developer communities will dictate what plug-ins are developed.
The idea is that Ringside will benefit from the wisdom of crowds effect, but also that the social networking developers also benefit through having a free platform to develop on and with and getting wider use for their applications.
By the way, if you’re wondering how Ringside plans to generate revenue, it has a couple of ideas including a subscription support business with value-add analytics capabilities, and the inclusion of a payment engine in the Social Application Server to enable transactions from which it will take a cut.
For now though the company is just looking to get a generally available version 1.1 in the hands of developers (which should be in June, according to the roadmap). Ringside is also currently on the lookout for a West Coast CEO to handle the business relationships and will likely look to take on Series A funding (David Skok of Matrix has provided undisclosed seed funding) later this year.
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