Platform-enabled website

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A platform-enabled website is a website in which additional functionality can be seamlessly integrated by means of an external application programming interface (API). The platform should provide integration points. These integration points are places in the application where new functionality can be plugged in.



The Platform is the website on which new functionality is added via an external API. Often the platform provides client libraries for writing platform Applications (also known as Plug-ins)


Application refers to the external module that integrates with the platform via an external API. The term application is a bit ambiguous since the platform itself is also an application. However, for convenience, this article will typically refer to the plug-ins as applications.


Same as Application. This article typically refers to Plug-ins as Applications.


A platform-enabled web application exchanges data with plug-in applications. When designing a platform, it is necessary to determine what data is exposed by the platform and under what conditions. This exchange of data is fundamental to the design of a platform-enabled website. Designed correctly, the platform and the applications that extend it are loosely coupled, yet maintain a seamless look and feel.

A loosely coupled relationship between the platform and a plug-in application exists when:

  • the platform does not depend on the plug-in application (i.e., the platform will still operate even if a plug-in is removed);
  • plug-in applications can be added and removed easily;
  • there is a well-defined interface for communication between the platform and the plug-in application;
  • unexpected termination or errors in a plug-in application will not be detrimental to the platform;
  • there are minimal expectations about the internal operation of each component (i.e., the platform and the plug-in application are black boxes).

Design Considerations[edit]


  • In what environment will plug-in applications be executed?
  • Will plug-in applications execute in a protected sandbox?
  • Will plug-in applications be hosted on servers external to the platform?


  • Will your platform run trusted and approved plug-ins only?
  • Will your platform protect the end-user from malicious code?
  • How will you authenticate and authorize plug-in applications?


  • Will your platform protect the company's proprietary data?
  • Will your application protect sensitive end-user data?


  • Will applications written for your platform maintain a seamless look and feel?


  • Can users add and remove plug-in applications (this might not always be necessary)?
  • How can users find new plug-in applications?


  • What mechanism will the platform and plug-in applications use to communicate (REST, JSON, XML, JavaScript, etc.)?

Integration Points[edit]

  • What integration points will the platform support?


  • How will the plug-in be displayed?
  • Will you need an IFRAME canvas?
  • Will the platform serve as proxy for data exchange between the plug-in canvas and remote web application?


  • How will the platform handle changes to the Application Programming Interface (API)?
  • Will the platform support deprecation of older versions of the API?
  • Will multiple revisions of the API be supported simultaneously?


  • Will your platform's external API conform to any industry standards (e.g., OpenSocial).


Certain social networking websites are attempting to create external APIs that conform to the OpenSocial specification. Participants include MySpace, Orkut, Bebo, and LinkedIn.