Facebook heading for the open (source) road?

Rumor suggests that the social-networking site may be making its platform open source.

Just when you thought the landscape of social-networking developer APIs couldn't get any more complicated, here comes another curveball.

Facebook will reportedly open-source the code for its application platform, according to TechCrunch. The announcement may be just days away.

Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It makes sense to do it now: the Facebook Platform just hit its one-year anniversary, and while it remains extraordinarily popular, developers have found an alternative in OpenSocial. Created by Google and then spun off into a nonprofit organization , OpenSocial is an open-source developer standard that any participating social site can use. Most of the big players in the scene, including MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google's Orkut, are on board--but not Facebook.

Facebook's image in the eyes of the "open Web" community also took a hit when popular blogger Robert Scoble said his account had been banned when he tried to export his Facebook contacts to Plaxo.

Facebook, however, has shown signs of wanting to expand its code beyond its own platform: Bebo, the social network that was acquired by AOL earlier this year , has a platform that accepts Facebook applications in addition to OpenSocial ones, and it seems logical that this would eventually reach sites other than Bebo.

Facebook announced earlier this month that it would be evolving its developer API into "Facebook Connect," a way to sync Facebook accounts with other sites like Digg. The announcement came within days of MySpace's "Data Availability" and Google's "Friend Connect," a set of new projects hinting that social-networking properties aren't just going to be standalone sites anymore.

But the question remains, especially given the scant detail of the latest rumor, about whether "open source" means truly open source or some variety of "extensible." Facebook has been redefining a whole lot of what we think about the Web, so this may be no exception.

 

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