Socialight opens its user-generated geo-content to 3rd parties

Interview with Michael Sharon, co-founder

New-York City based start-up Socialight this week announced that it has opened its application programming interface (API) to external developers. The Socialight platform allows its user to create, share and view geo-referenced multimedia sticky notes – on mobile phones and on the web - literally adding a virtual information layer to places around the world. This API gives developers the ability to build applications that leverage Socialight system for location-based content.

The Socialight API exposes many of the features of the platform using well-known standards like XML, GeoRSS and KML. In addition to opening its API, Socialight is freely distributing the source code of its fully functional mobile Java (J2ME) application for cell phones and mobile devices.

Socialight has already announced two first partners using its API: Dash Navigation and SiRF. Dash Navigation lets people send channels of location-based Socialight content directly to their Dash Express in-car GPS units. SiRF Technology is building a Socialight mobile Java application upon SiRFstudio, its location-enabled application development platform.

GPS Business News seized this opportunity to ask a few questions to Michael Sharon, co-founder of Socialight.

Socialight opens its user-generated geo-content to 3rd parties
GPS Business News: If I have well understood this API allows third parties to use your content in other platforms, right? I guess it should work even with un-connected devices such as PNDs?
Michael Sharon: Quite correct. We'll be offering export formats for the most popular GPS formats in the next few weeks.

GPS BN: How many “sticky notes” have been created by your users so far?
MS: The number of sticky notes globally is approaching one hundred thousand with the largest concentrations in New York and London. However, we don't try to differentiate by sheer volume of content alone - we're not a directory assistance company. We focus on recommendations from trusted sources - which are far more valuable in smaller quantities.

GPS BN: what is the business rationale behind opening up and offering the code of your J2ME application. Very generous, but...?
MS: There are a number of reasons for opening up and giving away our J2ME code. Firstly, we use open source software ourselves as an integral part of the Socialight platform and we love contributing back to the community which we belong to. Secondly, our approach is not all about warm and fuzzy feelings, as part of the rationale for opening up and offering our J2ME code to the world is that we're interested in having developers use the code and improve it through this use by adding their own improvements and modifications. Thirdly, the core value of our service lies in the experience, content and community we're building - not the source code of our J2ME application. It's definitely part of it, but it's not our key differentiator. Finally, the code that we released was not the entire code base for our application, it was the essential components and building blocks that you would need to build a mobile J2ME client using the Socialight API.

We're currently running a private beta program for the Socialight Mobile application - which is different from the open source code, as it is compiled and optimized to work with our current system, and may include additional features that we haven't opened yet.

GPS BN: Michael, thank you very much.
MS: You are most welcome.

Sunday, May 11th 2008

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