Awakening to Social Media Using APIs and Widgets

By Vipul Patel


A few years ago, email and phones were the primary means of keeping up-to-date with your social circle. All this changed with the advent of social websites like and These websites provided users with a near real-time view into your social circle and personal life.

Business quickly began to realize the potential of leveraging social media for marketing and ad placement. Integrating social media into business websites allowed users to understand what their social circle thought about the business.


A look at how social media has evolved & the rise of developer access

Social media websites initially confined the user experience within the 4 walls of their web portals. However, to support the rich integration and to expand beyond websites accessible over desktops, these social websites started developing APIs (application programming interfaces) which allows other applications and website to pull the social media data and integrate it with their website.

Having APIs also enabled extending the reach of the social websites to beyond the desktop browser. Numerous applications mushroomed to allow users to use their social network on a device of their choice.


In fact, Facebook and Twitter, the two big names in "social", were immensely popular because their supplied rich APIs for web developers to use and build applications and games which could integrate nicely with their offerings. MySpace was slow in introducing APIs and as a result saw a decline as a social media


Access to APIs and widgets resulted in the following developments:

  1. Integrated applications like browser-based games which could allow you to compete with anyone else using that platform, or with folks in your network.
  2. Sign-in with social accounts - Websites which offered to use social network credentials sprung up.
  3. Associate with social accounts - Web sites and web applications began to support social integration of user profiles by asking users for their social network credentials and asking for permissions. Now these websites had the user's social data, so they can be more effective in targeting their customers.


Success stories

Let us look at a few success stories which have followed the APIs to success.



Facebook (the largest social network) became popular at an insane speed, not just because it offered instant social updates, but because of the rich API support for social games integration. Thousands of people minted millions in Farmville.



The 140 character broadcasting network was able to reach to customers on various form factors, because it exposed APIs for its services which allowed developers to build Tweeting applications for a variety of platforms. This allows Twitter to expand its user base very fast.


One of the oldest players out there who has offered APIs, eBay isn't a real social network, but worthy of mention because you can think of it as a pioneer in APIs exposed to support developers to build personalized for user users.



In this article, we learned how social media has evolved as a platform offering with APIs and widgets. I hope you have found this information useful.


About the author

Vipul Patel is a Program Manager currently working at Amazon Corporation. He has formerly worked at Microsoft in the Lync team and in the .NET team (in the Base Class libraries and the Debugging and Profiling team). He can be reached at


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