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Social APIs (was: Rechartering WebApp WG)

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2010 15:52:43 -0500
Message-ID: <4B77111B.5020708@w3.org>
To: Scott Wilson <scott.bradley.wilson@gmail.com>
CC: Arthur Barstow <art.barstow@nokia.com>, ext Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>, public-webapps <public-webapps@w3.org>, Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>
Hi, Scott-

This is certainly a valid aspect of Widgets... as a platform for a 
specific kind of Web application: a collaboration/discussion/sharing app.

But it seems to me that this is conflating two orthogonal things: an 
application host environment, and a collaboration platform.  Widgets can 
host the full range of Web apps; and a collaboration platform shouldn't 
be confined to Widgets.

The context for a Widget, in my opinion, shouldn't inherently contain 
the users of that Widget; that is functionality that should be specific 
to collaboration apps.

As an analogy, think of the Geolocation API.  A recipe widget which 
finds recipes based on a list of available ingredients has no use for 
that API, but a shopping widget might; traditional web sites built to do 
those things would have the same needs.  So, the Geolocation API is much 
better off as a standalone API that is available when needed, and not 
imposed when not needed, as general functionality, not just for Widgets.

It also seems that it would require more than just an API... it needs an 
infrastructure from which to draw the relationship data, and security 
considerations.  Like the Geolocation API encapsulates underlying 
device/service functionality (GPS, cell/wifi triangulation, logged IP 
locations, etc.), and the Widget Interface's Storage API uses 
functionality defined elsewhere (LocalStorage, SessionStorage, 
IndexedDB, WebDB, remote web service), a Social API would have to rely 
upon some source of data, which is not inherent in the device or a 
single established web service, so that would need to be defined.

I don't think the WebApps WG is the right place to work on a Social API; 
I don't think it would get the specific interest such an API would 
require to do it right, with the current participants of this group 
(though others in the group should correct me if I'm wrong).  Also, the 
WebApps WG has an urgent need to renew its charter to bring in 
deliverables we've already agreed are in scope, so I would be extremely 
reluctant to bring in a deliverable at this stage that has as broad a 
scope as a Social API.

That's not to say a Social API is not useful or desirable.  I'd love to 
see this done at W3C, and I think it's important to make sure it works 
well in both web sites and widgets.  So, my counterproposal is to 
suggest that you work with Harry Halpin to propose a new Social API WG 
(maybe under Interaction Domain, but more fittingly under the Technology 
and Society Domain), and bring in the Google Wave and Open Social folks 
(since Google is already a W3C member), and find other stakeholders 
(Facebook?) who might also be interested, to help standardize what they 
have all already done.  Harry and I have talked a bit before about next 
steps for the Social Web, and this strikes me as a logical and pragmatic 
next step.  I will be happy to do what I can to help set this up, and to 
ensure good communication between our groups, and to make sure that it 
works well with Widgets.

Regards-
-Doug Schepers
W3C Team Contact, SVG and WebApps WGs


Scott Wilson wrote (on 2/13/10 5:21 AM):
> Hi Doug,
>
> I'm not adamant that these requirements are met specifically just for
> Widgets, just that these are where the current use-cases come from. They
> certainly ought to be supported through more general technologies where
> possible.
>
> There is also the issue of abstraction; should a widget author be
> looking at low-level APIs to deliver functionality, or call a common
> high-level API which is then implemented in a
> device/architecture-specific way? E.g. if a widget author script wants
> to get the list of current participants, should it need to be rewritten
> for every platform it might be deployed in (e.g. XHR in some, Web
> Sockets in another, native code another...) or can it call
> "widget.getParticipants()" and let the UA handle the implementation?
>
> Just as, for example, the Widget Interface defines "preferences" using
> the Storage API: the actual choice of implementation of this
> (LocalStorage, SessionStorage, IndexedDB, WebDB, remote web service) is
> up to the UA.
>
> So what I'm talking about here, just to be clear, are the high level API
> abstractions available to a running widget (and potentially other types
> of web application) and not any underlying protocols used to implement
> them.
>
> The specific high-level APIs I'm interested in are:
>
> 1. Participants [1]: getParticipants, getViewer, getOwner,
> setParticipantCallback
> 2. State [1]: getState, state.submitDelta, state.submitValue,
> setStateCallback
> 3. Friends/People [2]: getViewerFriends, getOwnerFriends
>
> (Note these are subsets of the functionality of the referenced
> specifications; other functionality they specify is already covered by
> other W3C work such as Widgets:TWI [3] and Widgets:VMMF[4])
>
> In some cases these APIs could map onto DAP (e.g. getViewer would map to
> a call on the Contacts API) but in other cases would rely on other kinds
> of implementations (OpenSocial itself, XHR, Websockets, Widget Feature
> extensions etc). The principle interoperability being addressed would be
> a consistent runtime model for a widget author irrespective of
> deployment environment.
>
> Widgets P&C already has a Feature extension mechanism for handling
> availability of additional APIs that would be well suited to negotiating
> availability of these types of APIs [5]. Apache Wookie already
> implements Widgets P&C with a subset of the Google Wave Gadget API in
> this fashion [6].
>
> S
>
> [1] http://code.google.com/apis/wave/extensions/gadgets/reference.html
> [2]
> http://wiki.opensocial.org/index.php?title=OSAPI_Specification#osapi.people
> [3] http://www.w3.org/TR/widgets-apis/
> [4] http://www.w3.org/TR/2009/WD-widgets-vmmf-20091006/
> [5] http://www.w3.org/TR/widgets/#the-feature-element
> [6] http://incubator.apache.org/wookie/
>
> On 12 Feb 2010, at 23:50, Doug Schepers wrote:
>
>> Hi, Scott-
>>
>> I'm still confused as to what you're asking for as a chartered
>> deliverable for Widgets.
>>
>> Like others, I am extremely reluctant to define any special
>> functionality for Widgets, when it could be useful for Web
>> applications at large. Let me try to break down some of what you are
>> asking for in terms of specs we are already doing:
>>
>> * communication between different widgets on the same computer: Web
>> Messaging [1]
>> * communication between widgets on different computers: Web Sockets
>> API [2], XHR [3] (through a gateway server)
>> * access to contacts on a specific device: Contacts API (DAP WG) [4]
>> * access to relationships between contacts, etc.: no current work, but
>> possible as an online service (XHR), or locally through markup like
>> RDFa or microdata
>>
>>
>> I don't know what social APIs OpenSocial or Google Wave Gadget API
>> expose, but anything above and beyond the deliverables listed above
>> should probably be developed by another group (maybe in collaboration
>> with the RDFa WG, since it probably has to do with ontologies?), and
>> simply reused within Widgets or Web apps.
>>
>> But maybe I missed your point... can you give me a concise outline of
>> what the specific use cases and requirements you have for this social
>> API are?
>>
>> [1] http://dev.w3.org/html5/postmsg/
>> [2] http://dev.w3.org/html5/websockets/
>> [3] http://dev.w3.org/2006/webapi/XMLHttpRequest/
>> [4] http://dev.w3.org/2009/dap/contacts/
>>
>> Regards-
>> -Doug Schepers
>> W3C Team Contact, SVG and WebApps WGs
>>
>>
>> Scott Wilson wrote (on 2/12/10 5:39 PM):
>>>
>>> Specifically I'm thinking of access to friends/friends-of lists from
>>> author scripts in a Widget runtime. This is something of interest to
>>> widget developers, as it enables widgets to operate as social
>>> applications.
>>>
>>> OpenSocial is an obvious source of inspiration here - however the actual
>>> social APIs are only a small part of OpenSocial (which also covers all
>>> aspects of app packaging. processing. discovery and persistence) and are
>>> not easily reused in other kinds of devices and architectures.
>>>
>>> The interop problem arises as currently authors of apps/widgets are
>>> basically faced with two completely different "stacks" of specifications
>>> based on the presence or absence of a few very small features - and the
>>> "friends" API represents the main feature gap between the W3C widgets
>>> family of specifications and OpenSocial.
>>>
>>> Looking at recent developments, e.g. Vodafone's recent work on
>>> integrating phone contacts and social network contacts, suggests that it
>>> will not only be web widgets that would be able to access this type of
>>> API, but also mobile and desktop widgets.
>>>
>>> I would propose looking at this area with the W3C Social Web XG and
>>> identifying a set of spec requirements either for webapps or DAP (it
>>> could go either way - social APIs may fit better in DAP as they have
>>> analogues with the contacts API work there, however Widgets are the
>>> obvious vehicle for making use of such APIs. In any case some
>>> co-ordination would be useful).
>>>
>>> Currently in Apache Wookie we implement the Google Wave Gadget API as a
>>> means of supporting inter-widget communication in collaboration
>>> scenarios (e.g. multi-user environments); however the fact that this API
>>> is completely different in almost every respect from the Google API to
>>> get at friends (as opposed to participants) indicates there is a
>>> significant interop gap where W3C could make a difference.
>>>
>>> (One way of looking at this is that requesta for "contacts",
>>> "participants" and "friends" are just differently contextualized queries
>>> on a core "people API" and should behave consistently.)
>>
>>
>
Received on Saturday, 13 February 2010 20:52:49 GMT

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