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Social apps showing developers the money

As platform providers rush to provide interoperability to attract developers, apps riding on platforms of Web giants such as Facebook enjoy highest demand.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

With the buzz surrounding social networking, it may surprise few that developers are flocking to develop applications on these platforms to take advantage of the growing trend.

Chew Choon Keat, a Singaporean programmer based in San Francisco and founder of Web startup, SharedCopy, told ZDNet Asia in an interview, the money in Web app development these days lies in apps riding on giants such as Facebook.

"Web apps that involve building a community of some sort and integrating with Facebook Connect and OpenSocial" receive the highest demand, said Chew.

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Developer growth outside the United States is projected to be two to four times that of the country.

Chris Yeh, head, Yahoo developer network

Facebook Connect is a single sign-on service enabling users to share content between affiliated sites; OpenSocial is a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) launched by Google, joined by other networks such as MySpace, that allow developers' apps to run on supporting member sites. Though created by different Web site owners, both tools were released with an eye on attracting developer interest.

Chris Yeh, head of Yahoo's developer network, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia, harnessing the collective power of third-party developers is a topic in which many of the large Web properties have taken an interest. And many have come to embrace "open" platforms in a bid to attract developers from competitors' pools.

Yeh said: "Over the past few years, virtually every major Web company has opened Web site properties so that third-party developer applications can be integrated. Web app development industry standards such as OpenSocial are emerging to make cross-company Web app development easier to manage for developers."

In addition to participating in the OpenSocial initiative, Yahoo launched a large project late last year called Open Strategy, in an effort to attract more developers to build on Yahoo's Web properties.

The community has grown steadily over the past two years, especially outside of the United States, according to Yeh. "Most projections put developer growth outside [the country] at two to four times the growth of the U.S. developer market...the primary fuel for [that] is the market trend toward 'open' technologies," he noted.

For users and the platform service providers, the growing community also helps increase the speed to market of new projects and drives innovation within the developer community, said Yeh.

The consumer is key
The developer interest in social platforms stems from their goal to attain consumer attention, with popular social networks providing an easy platform to do so. "At the end of the day, Web apps rely on consumer adoption to succeed," Yeh explained.

As a result, the top Web apps are primarily social: media sharing, multiplayer games and those that match users' common interests, for example, said Yeh.

Herryanto Siatono, creator of BookJetty.com, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail the momentum which social apps have gathered has flowed over into the mobile pool, in particular those developed for the iPhone, and likely Android.

He ranked social apps as most popular, followed by business productivity and e-commerce related projects.

However, he said the mobile space is threatening to take developer interest away from Web 2.0 for now. "It seems like interest in Web 2.0 apps is slowing down. I don't really sense much of the vibrancy now," Siatono said. Mobile apps, being faster to get out the door, are attracting developers for being able to bring in "quicker money", he added.

On that note, Yahoo's Yeh said Web developers should focus on creating apps which can generate critical mass. "Creating apps that have real value for large numbers of users and good viral characteristics is a significant challenge in the competitive app development world."

Chew thinks developers should not attempt to recreate the services of such large platforms. "Applications aiming to build a community, with a ton of features and integrating with many other sites are the most painful to work on. Other than the scope, these features are usually tell-tale signs of a lack of focus," he said.

Developers should launch small and fast projects, while listening to feedback along the way, added Chew.

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