Orkut Application Platform

On-Site Applications (Gadgets)

What is an On-Site Application?

An on-site application (also called a "gadget") is an application that runs inside the Orkut user interface. These applications are listed in the Orkut application directory and users can run them either by installing them on their profile or by visiting another person's profile and running the app there (the latter case is known as "running the application in guest mode"). It is worth emphasizing that even though we use the term "gadget" for historical reasons (the updated term is "on-site application"), these applications are not limited to the simple functionality that the term might seem to suggest: gadgets can be fully-featured applications with stunning graphics, sound and interactivity. These applications can be extremely successful in Orkut. The biggest ones have close to twenty million unique users and several million daily pageviews.

An on-site application is, in essence, an XML file with a certain structure. This XML file specifies the features and libraries that the application uses, as well as provide the HTML that constitutes its content. This HTML is rendered inside an iframe when the user runs the application, so the developer has a great degree of freedom to embed several types of content: you can use any combination of HTML, Javascript, CSS, Flash and most other web technologies.

It's important to emphasize that Orkut does not host applications or their content: this must be arranged by the developer. When you publish an on-site application on Orkut, what we store is the URL where the XML of your application can be located, not the application's content. This gives you a greater flexibility, as you can keep full control over the contents of your application without having to constantly re-upload them.

In order to reduce the load on your servers and improve user experience, we provide a proxy server infrastructure that automatically detects and caches most of the resources used by our application.

Life of an On-Site Application

These are the necessary steps to develop and publish an on-site application on Orkut:

  1. Set up your hosting environment. You can host your content on your own servers or, if you don't have an existing infrastructure, there are several services of this type available on the Internet, both free and paid. You should select a service that's known to be robust and reliable. Even though we cache many resources, your infrastructure needs to be able to handle a fair amount of traffic, especially if your applications reaches thousands (or, we hope, millions!) of users.

  2. Develop your application. Developing the application involves modifying it iteratively and testing it in our Sandbox environment until you are sure it is working properly. See the Development Environment section for full instructions on the environment setup and development workflow.

  3. Submit your application. When you are done preparing your application and debugging it, it's time to show it to the world. At this point, you must submit your application to our review. Our review is a combination of automated and human reviews and will determine whether your application complies with our Developer Guidelines.

  4. Correct errors, if necessary. If your application did not pass review, you will receive an email with the details about why it failed review. After you correct the problems, you can submit it again for a new review.

  5. Maintain your application. After your application passes review, it will appear in the Orkut Application Directory and can be instaled by users. At this point, you might consider methods to increase user awareness of your application, such as advertising or cross-promotion (if you already have other popular applications with many users).

  6. Correct live errors. Our review process is continuous, that is, your application will be constantly reviewed even after publishing. If we detect any problems, you will receive an automated email message informing you of the problems we found with your application. Should you receive any such email, you must then correct the problems. If your application is already live, you don't need to submit it again after corrections.

What is OpenSocial and Why is it Important?

Applications interact with Orkut through the OpenSocial Standard, a common API definition that allows applications to interact with multiple social sites. The version of OpenSocial implemented by Orkut is 0.8. A very useful resource that you might want to bookmark is the OpenSocial 0.8 API Reference. You can also check the full specification.

Apart from the features in OpenSocial 0.8, Orkut also implements some features from the 0.9 version, notably photos and albums. So, for more documentation on these more advanced features, you can check the OpenSocial 0.9 specification.

How do I develop an on-site application?

This section provides a complete guide to developing Orkut on-site applications which you can access through the navigation bar on the left side of the page. A good place to start is the Development Environment Setup, which will tell you all you need to know about how to set up your developer account to upload and test your on-site applications.

After that, we have one section for each fundamental concept involved in Orkut applications, ending with a section that will teach you how to submit your application and how to deal with the review messages.

And if I need help?

If you need help with development at any point and your problem is not addressed by the documentation, you can always count on our vibrant developer community through mailing lists and forums. The Community Information page lists the best resources for community support.

Remember that communities work both ways, so don't go there only when you have questions! As you gain experience in the Orkut platform, your valuable expertise can help thousands of other developers. Whether it's answering questions, posting snippets of sample code, cool things you found out and feedback on how the platform could improve, your contribution will be greatly appreciated. Don't hesitate to get involved!

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