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Facebook's Developer Circles program tries to hook 'em early

The social network wants to help people interested in computer programming -- and teach them how to use Facebook's tools in the process.

Facebook is trying to woo would-be software developers.

When it comes to courting the next generation of computer scientists, Facebook is trying to go grassroots.

On Tuesday, the social network introduced a new program aimed at nurturing people interested in tech, called Developer Circles. The company made the announcement at F8, Facebook's annual developer conference in San Jose, California.

Facebook already has a program called FBStart, launched in 2014, which helps startups grow and scale. But now, the social network wants to indoctrinate developers into the Facebook ecosystem even before that.

"Our goal never was to focus only on early stage startups," Ime Archibong, Facebook's director of product partnerships, said during a press briefing last week in San Francisco. "If you're a software engineer trying to build, or even a student trying to learn what code is, you'll be able to find a supportive community."

For Facebook, it's crucial to woo software developers because it allows the company to extend its reach and advertising prowess. Facebook first launched its platform for third-party software developers 10 years ago. The company said Tuesday that more than 80 percent of developers using the platform are outside the US.

"At our new program you'll find a meaningful community," Archibong said during F8 on Tuesday. "We've been piloting this program for a little under a year now and the response has been tremendous."

Developer Circles are forums for people to learn about technology -- specifically tools and products from Facebook. The idea is to tailor the program to specific local communities. For example, someone in Nigeria could develop a plan or curriculum over the course of weeks or months, and use Facebook tools to teach classes on things like developing bots for Messenger or using Facebook's open source software. The company also partnered with the education tech company Udacity to provide online training programs.

At the press briefing last week, Archibong compared Developer Circles to an economics concept known as the "multiplier effect." That principle states that if, for example, a government invests in more roads, there will be more free-flowing movement of people and goods. This will increase economic activity and possibly raise GDP.

"We wanted to invest in anyone that could be a multiplier," said Archibong.

In addition to Developer Circles, the company said it's rebranding its suite of tools for developers, called "Analytics for Apps," to simply "Facebook Analytics." Facebook also said more than 85 percent of the top 100 grossing apps in the US use Facebook Login, which lets people log into apps automatically using their Facebook credentials, instead of a new username and password.

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