Open source innovation on the cutting edge

Think open source doesn’t innovate? Here are seven projects exploring exciting new directions in computing -- for free

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Open source innovation: KDE Social Desktop
Browser-based applications are playing an increasingly central role in everyday computing. One particular trend that's driving users to the Web is social networking. Sites such as Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter allow computer users to network and collaborate in new and unprecedented ways.

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But not everyone believes the full, fat-client interface of a browser is necessary to bring users together. In fact, some say it's an intrusion. If social networking is becoming central to how we use our PCs, then social networking should become central to the PC user experience, integrated directly into the OS.

Enter the Social Desktop concept. Along with Gnome, the K Desktop Environment is one of two major GUI systems for Linux desktops. Beginning with version 4.3, KDE ships with a lightweight tool that allows users to locate and communicate with other KDE users in their local areas. The idea is to help KDE users build local communities and give each other advice on how to manage and maintain their Linux systems.

It's a modest beginning, to be sure. But behind this first effort is an ambitious plan to link KDE users like never before. The Open Collaboration Services (OCS) specification is a detailed API designed to help providers of social media services link their offerings with KDE desktops.

Largely the brainchild of Frank Karlitschek, so far the API works only with Karlitschek's openDesktop.org set of Websites, but the specification is open and work is under way to develop stand-alone servers that support the API.

"Trying to catch up with the features of other desktops is not enough," Karlitschek says.

If his vision comes to fruition, soon Linux desktops will have social media baked right into the desktop experience, while the leading proprietary operating systems have largely ceded that role to the browser.

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