Facebook Opens Up to Developers

The Facebook Platform will let a broad base of developers build applications for Facebook users.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on May 24 introduced Facebook Platform, a new platform for developers to build on top of Facebooks APIs, at the Facebook f8 developer event in San Francisco.

In a keynote address to more than 750 developers, Zuckerberg invited developers to build the next generation of applications with deep integration into Facebook, distribution across its "social graph" and an opportunity to build new businesses. Facebook Platform launched with more than 65 developer partners and 85 applications and with the introduction of an example application called Video.

Video allows users to share personal videos within Facebook, as well as create and send video messages directly to and from the Facebook Inbox, according to the company. Moreover, to allow users to better share the increasing amount of video being shot from mobile devices, Video supports mobile uploading of video directly into the application.

"Until now, social networks have been closed platforms," Zuckerman said in his keynote. "Today, were going to end that. With this evolution of Facebook Platform, any developer worldwide can build full social applications on top of the social graph, inside of Facebook."

Meanwhile, Facebook introduced a new markup language, Facebook Markup, which along with its previously released APIs allows developers to build applications fully integrated into the site, the company said. Facebook Markup includes features, such as dynamic information tags, conditional privacy tags, image caching and Flash. Developers can build anything they want in full, unlimited application pages on Facebook, called the "canvas pages," and applications also can have a box in users profiles and navigation.

Applications will gain distribution through what Zuckerberg called the "social graph," or the network of real connections through which people communicate and share information. Facebook and all social networks have two core elements: the social graph and the applications that run on it. Because of the efficient spreading of information through the social graph, existing Facebook applications, such as Photos, have grown to leaders in their categories.

"The social graph is changing the way the world works," Zuckerberg said in a statement. "We are at a time in history when more information is available and people are more connected than they ever have been before, and the social graph is at the center of that."

Microsoft is one of the major developer partners supporting the Facebook Platform launch. In a blog post about Microsofts partnership with Facebook, Dan Fernandez, Microsofts lead product manager for Visual Studio Express, highlighted several areas where Microsoft is supporting Facebook, including the Popfly Facebook Block, which produces access to Facebook data including the User Profile, Friends, Photos, Photo Albums and Events.

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In addition, users can build Facebook applications using Popfly blocks like Flickr, Digg, Soapbox, Twitter, Windows Live, Xbox Live and Virtual Earth, Fernandez said. Microsoft also is providing Silverlight support for Facebook, where Facebook has native support for building next-generation applications using Silverlight. "With 24 million users and 40 billion page views a month, this is a huge, huge win for getting native Silverlight support on Facebook," Fernandez said. And, finally, the Facebook Developer Toolkit enables developers to build applications for Windows, Web, or Microsoft Office, he said.

Moreover, "Its not just Popflyers," said Fernandez. "[A]ny of the 14 million Visual Studio Express downloaders (and pro Visual Studio customers as well) can build Facebook applications using the Facebook Development Toolkit and build applications with ASP.NET, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Forms" and other Microsoft technologies.

In a separate bog post, S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of developer tools at Microsoft, said, "Today we saw another great use of Silverlight and Popfly with Facebook. Our partnership with Facebook provides developers with access to the Facebook data using products such as Popfly and Visual Studio Express. Facebook users will have tools that let them create pages that reflect their personality even if they have no development experience."

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