Google, IBM and Sun cite developer outreach

Platforms are being extended for collaboration and mashups

Officials from Google and IBM detailed efforts this month to extend their platforms to developers via APIs and Web 2.0 technologies. But a Sun Microsystems executive cautioned that openness offered via forums such as blogs can have negative consequences if not managed well.

Executives from the three companies talked about opening up to developers at the Evans Data Developer Relations Conference in California. Google's Patrick Chanezon, API evangelist, discussed how the company has expanded from having three APIs available three years ago to having 55 APIs now. The company had 32 APIs available in 2007.

"Google is [known] quite well for search and ads, and it only started getting into the API game about three years [ago]," Chanezon says.

Google has a range of APIs on code.google.com, including Google's Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Search API, Chart API, and Search API. The company also has expanded its outreach to developers through development of three platforms: Android, for mobile applications; OpenSocial, featuring APIs for social applications; and the newly introduced App Engine, for running web applications on Google infrastructure.

Google's Data APIs, for reading and writing data on the web, meanwhile, feature the REST-based AtomPub publishing protocol, Chanezon notes. Google also leverages Ajax in areas such as search, he says.

Meanwhile, Google has been participating in open source. "There's already over 1 million lines of code open sourced by Google," in more than 100 projects, says Chanezon.

At IBM, the company leverages various Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis and forums to extend its developerWorks developer outreach program, says Kathy Mandelstein, director of IBM worldwide Rational marketing programmes.

"Really, we're evolving developerWorks to be a community-based site that is really more about interaction," she says.

Web 2.0, she says, presents technologies such as social networking, open source, and search and is no longer just for consumers. "It's really transformed the web in the way we all do business," Mandelstein says.

With its Web 2.0 outreach, IBM is leveraging technologies such as podcasts and gizmos, to syndicate content. "Gizmos basically allow any of the portlets on developerWorks to be syndicated out to a lot of other popular social networking sites," such as Facebook and iGoogle, Mandelstein says.

Use of RSS feeds in developerWorks has grown 64% since the same time in 2006. IBM also received 1.4 million referrals from social bookmarks in 2007.

Blogs have experienced 100% growth year to year, Mandelstein says. Use of forums has also grown. Additionally, IBM has an interface enabling access to developerWorks from an Apple iPhone. Other efforts include activities in the virtual world via Second Life and development of IBM Codestation, for sharing scripts and objects in Second Life.

IBM has also set up its Jazz.net platform for collaborative application lifecycle management, Mandelstein says. Jazz has Web 2.0 features such as real-time chat as well as a virtual world component called Project Bluegrass, she says.

Mandelstein says IBM gets input on development of products and enables more people to develop applications through developer outreach.

Sun's Jean Elliott, senior director for developer and university initiatives, cautions against attracting developers and then having no idea how to work with them to build business. Sun itself, though, has a very transparent business model, she says.

"We've got between 4,000 and 5,000 employees who blog," Elliott says. Suddenly, all these voices are coming out of the corporation, each reflecting their view of what is interesting, she says. But internal inconsistencies could be revealed by openness, which can cause confusion about what a company is doing, she says.

"The question I've been grappling with recently is how open is too open," says Elliott.

Problems could arise such as scaring customers, who might be better off finding out about things privately than publicly, Elliott says. "The creative process actually benefits from a little bit of privacy," she says.

Other difficulties could occur such as stunting the creative process, spending time on damage control and difficulty in hiring. Brand harm could also result or perhaps violations of intellectual property.

"At Sun, we have the 'Engineers Gone Wild' notion," where engineers are enthusiastic, but there are laws governing who owns what IP and what can be done with it, she says. Opening up should be done gradually to build trust. Sun, for example, took its time in open-sourcing Java amid ongoing pressures to open the platform, she adds.

Other recommendations include nurturing the creative processes and managing ecosystem expectations around actions. Companies should also prepare for culture change and manage corporate and community elements of brand. Once open, companies should embrace openness and educate people about business climate, she says.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz blogs, which is helpful in that the CEO can explain what is going on, says Elliott. She says she doesn't think blogs need to be pre-approved by corporate public relations staff, but a company needs to be run really well and that internal strategic consistency is ensured.

Pieter Humphrey, senior product marketing manager at BEA Systems, says the company's Facebook application, called Dev2Dev Book, allows persons with similar interests in BEA products to find each other.

Also, a Microsoft official used the term "NextWeb" to describe a group of web development technologies that includes some Microsoft software and some from other sources.

"NextWeb is really compelling user experiences on the web," says Microsoft's Jas Sandhu, evangelist for developer and platform evangelism at Microsoft,

Featured as part of the NextWeb concept are Microsoft technologies including Silverlight, Microsoft's new multimedia browser plug-in platform, ASP.Net 2.0, Ajax and Adobe's Flex and Flash.

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