updated 04:00 pm EST, Wed December 12, 2007
Social network site Facebook today announced the early stages of open access to Facebook Platform, the underpinning for the company's web application service. The company will let its existing platform serve as a reference for other sites and will allow competitors to license the company's proprietary tags and similar code, though the cost if any of a license has yet to be revealed. Expanding the code will let developers writing for Facebook export their web applications to other sites without having to significantly rewrite the code for another platform, the company says.
One of the first to adopt the new platform will be UK-based Bebo, according to a related announcement. The site claims it will be "100 percent compatible" with programs written for Facebook and will include web apps from at least 40 development houses, including TV broadcaster NBC and a customized app that helps promote The Office. Bebo's platform will have unique features such as the ability to rate the quality of apps as well as a skinning system that allows a custom look for each app's homepage.
Facebook's choice is an expected response to Google OpenSocial, which altered the climate for social networking applications by allowing developers at sites such as MySpace to write a tool that will work properly at another. Bebo expects to integrate OpenSocial as soon as the platform is considered stable, company co-founder Michael Birch says.
An open foundation at either network also opens the door to using them as the basis for web-only software on computing devices, especially handhelds such as Apple's iPhone or phones using Google's Android OS, both of which explicitly support the Web 2.0 code at the heart of sites like Facebook and tie directly into multiple web services.