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Google's busy week

Easy-to-build online zones and brand new software for phones, as search engine leader premieres new and forthcoming technologies.

Google this week unveiled OpenSocial, a set of APIs for building social applications online, in addition to reportedly showing off a prototype phone platform to handset makers.

OpenSocial is a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow web developers to create applications for a variety of social networks, rather than having to learn a different markup language for each new social networking platform.

The list of web organisations already signed up to use OpenSocial is already lengthy, and crucially - as far as competitor Microsoft and part-MS-owned Facebook are concerned - includes social networking giant MySpace.

According to Google, the release of OpenSocial marks the first time that multiple social networks have been made accessible under a common API, potentially making development and distribution easier for developers. Until now, the proliferation of unique APIs across dozens of social websites forced developers to choose which sites to write applications for, and they would then need to spend their time writing separately for each.

"The web is fundamentally better when it's social, and we're only just starting to see what's possible when you bring social information into different contexts on the web," said Jeff Huber, Google's senior vice president of engineering. "There's a lot of innovation that will be spurred simply by creating a standard way for developers to run social applications in more places. With the input and iteration of the community, we hope OpenSocial will become a standard set of technologies for making the web social," he continued.

Meanwhile on the phone front, it was reported this week that Google has developed a prototype cell phone that could be released within a year.

According to a story published in The Wall Street Journal, the firm plans to offer consumers free subscriptions by bundling advertisements with its search engine, e-mail and Web browser software applications.

Although Google declined to comment on the prototype story specifically, a spokesperson did confirm to the newspaper that the firm is working with partners to expand its software applications from the traditional internet to mobile devices.

"We're partnering with carriers, manufacturers and content providers around the world to bring Google search and Google applications to mobile users everywhere," Google spokesman Michael Kirkland said.

It's thought that such suspected developments could see Google announcing a whole new range of software and services that will enable handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, such Google-powered phones would bring together several of Google's existing applications, such as Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail.

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