Social Networking

Facebook Rubs New Interface in MySpace’s Face

MySpace competitor Facebook has introduced a new open platform that allows developers to build applications that integrate with the social networking site and can be chosen by users to appear within their Facebook profile pages.

Announced Thursday by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg — and called “Facebook Platform” — the new system will also allow application developers to make money by selling advertising on their so-called canvas pages, although advertising will continue to be kept off of users’ personal pages.

“Until now, social networks have been closed platforms,” said Zuckerberg in announcing Facebook Platform. “Today, we’re going to end that.”

Widgets Galore

At its launch, Facebook Platform already had more than 65 developer partners and 85 applications. One such application, called “Video,” allows users to easily share personal videos within Facebook. It supports the creation and sending of video messages to and from the Facebook Inbox, and supports direct uploading of video created with mobile devices.

As described, Facebook Platform will allow users to choose which applications to add to their profiles and it gives them the ability to control their order and appearance on the personal sites. “Users can always remove applications, including those built by Facebook, and will have their granular privacy controls maintained across applications,” ensured the company.

To help developers create applications that integrate with Facebook, a new markup language was introduced. Dubbed “Facebook Markup,” the language includes features such as dynamic information tags, conditional privacy tags and image caching.

Spread the Word

Zuckerberg expects the new applications will be broadcast throughout the Facebook network as users spread word amongst themselves of programs they try and like. “Because of the efficient spreading of information through the social graph, existing Facebook applications, such as Photos, have grown to leaders in their categories,” said the company.

New third-party applications are likely to spread rapidly, it said, because the platform will allow notifications to be sent to a user’s friends when the user adds an application to his or her profile site. Profile sites will have an “Add” button “so any user can easily install the application for themselves,” noted Facebook.

In addition to the ability to place ads on their application development canvas pages, developers will be permitted to make money through direct sales “that they control.”

“This is good for us because if developers build great applications then they’re providing a service to our users and strengthening the social graph,” Zuckerberg said. “This is a big opportunity. We provide the integration and distribution and developers provide the applications. We help users share more information and together we benefit.”

Racing to Socialize

Zuckerberg founded Facebook in February 2004; the site now has more than 24 million users. Initially limited to use by college students, the site doubled in popularity since it began allowing anyone to create a profile eight months ago. However, it has a long way to go if it wants to pass MySpace, the News Corp.-owned social networking site that now has 67 million members.

The creation and sharing of widgets is a phenomenon that is soaring in popularity and cannot be ignored by sites such as Facebook, JupiterResearch analyst Barry Parr noted. It’s a smart move for Facebook to embrace third-party creation of applications, he added.

“That sort of opening up is really important, and we going to see more of it and not less of it,” Parr told TechNewsWorld. “MySpace has gotten flak in the past from restricting what users can do and also failing to support applications on their site. The truth is, we’re going to see basically more ways of sharing information between sites, and that’s really where the network is headed. Information really wants to live in multiple places.”

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