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Google is testing social-networking features for the iGoogle personalized home page.
In preparing a new version of the personal portal, Google is adding the ability for subscribers to chat with friends without having to download any extra software. Friends signed into Google's Web mail, instant messaging, or iGoogle services will see each other's screen names on the left-side navigation bar, which also is new.
In addition, people in each other's contact lists will be able to share stories from the Web in Google Reader and photos uploaded to Google's Picasa photo-sharing site, according to the Google Operating System blog, which follows the development of Google applications.
Google plans to add support for the OpenSocial API later this summer. Developed by Google and released in November 2007, the OpenSocial set of application programming interfaces makes it possible to integrate services among social networks and Web sites.
Support of OpenSocial API will make it possible for developers building gadgets to connect to iGoogle and other sites. Gadgets are small programs that provide services by running in an environment that manages multiple gadgets. In this case, that would be the iGoogle platform. The new features include the ability for iGoogle users to share gadgets with people on their contact lists.
The next version of iGoogle will have a left-side bar that contains a list of all of the user's gadgets, as well as tabs to other pages on the portal. In addition, a person can click the title of a gadget or the "maximize" button in the gadget title bar to get a full-page view. Such a feature, for example, would be useful in reading news feeds.
The iGoogle features are in the experimental stage and are available only to a pre-selected group of developers.