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Demo day at Facebook: First Open Stream products

At a Facebook "Technology Tasting" event, presenters from Microsoft, Plaxo, Seesmic, and Facebook itself show off new apps.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicks off the Technology Tasting event:"We believe the majority of the sharing that's going to happen in the world isn't going to be on just one site." Rafe Needleman/CNET

After announcing Monday morning that it's opening up more of the Facebook API that will allow the creation of new stand-alone applications that use more of the Facebook data stream than they could have previously, the company hosted an event in the afternoon where developers demonstrated their use of the new expanded feed.

Plaxo and Seesmic CEOs showcased their new Open Stream-using apps. A Facebook developer showed a new "demonstration" Adobe Air app. Microsoft showed off a whizzy user interface experiment (video near bottom of post). There was also a surprise announcement about OpenID.

Plaxo showed an enhanced two-way link between the Facebook social network and the Plaxo system. Once a user connects their Plaxo and Facebook accounts together, then their Facebook friends become Plaxo contacts, and updates on the Facebook activity stream also show up in Plaxo. Likewise, when the user updates his or her Plaxo status, it can (optionally) get reflected to their Facebook account. Marketing guy John McCrea told me, "You shouldn't have to re-friend people," when you move from one network to another, and he said he's looking forward to other social networks opening up so he can make Plaxo an even more utilitarian social connector. In particular, he said he'd like to have Plaxo recognize LinkedIn for business contacts and Geni for family connections. But their APIs aren't open enough for that to work yet, he said.

Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur showed off the next release of Seesmic Desktop. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur showed off the upcoming beta of Seesmic Desktop, the company's new TweetDeck competitor. It gives users full two-way integration to their Facebook accounts from within the app. It can, optionally, intermingle your Twitter and Facebook alerts into one activity stream in your Seesmic interface, or separate them into different streams. (As before, it supports multiple Twitter accounts and lets you save searches and user lists, which feature-wise, gives it an edge over Tweetdeck.) It's also worth noting that since we first saw Seesmic Desktop, the interface seems to have been cleaned up a bit. The new version should be out this week.

Facebook's own Justin Bishop showed a proof-of-concept Adobe Air app that lets you interact with your Facebook account without firing up a Web browser. Bishop said Facebook will continue to develop the app, but at the same time the company does not want to compete with other Facebook Air app makers (like Seesmic). You can get the app from a link on the Facebook blog.

Microsoft Silverlight spokesman Brian Goldfarb showed the slickest apps of the evening: A Silverlight-based Facebook client that let you fly between photos and see the network of relationships that they represented. An installed demo app, Fabuloous, added even more eye candy to Facebook photo viewing, as well as caching of photos for offline access. You will want these apps--they're really cool. Goldfarb said the apps will be released, but he did not say when.

Microsoft shows Open Stream demos from Rafe Needleman on Vimeo.

Xobni was not demonstrated at the event, but I did sit next to co-founder Matt Brezina, who talked to me about how his Outlook add-on is taking advantage of the Open Stream API. Brezina told me that while the previous version of Xobni allowed users to pull some information from Facebook about their e-mail contacts, the new version that uses the Open Stream API lets users see a stream of their contacts' Facebook activities, as well as their photos and other information. I grabbed the new Xobni build later to check it out (to get it yourself, clear your cache in Internet Explorer and restart Outlook). It is very nice to be able to see what your e-mail contacts have been saying on Facebook, and to see their photos. However, the two-way integration, which I was pitched on, is limited. While there are links to "like" and comment on Facebook items from within Xobni, clicking on them fires up a Facebook page in a browser. I'm looking forward to more serious integration efforts.

The big news at the end of the event was Facebook's announcement that it's getting very serious about supporting OpenID. You'll soon be able to log in to Facebook using your OpenID credentials. Facebook is also becoming a "relying party," which means that if you're logged in to another OpenID site, like Gmail, when you then go over to Facebook it will see that you're logged in to an authenticated site (GMail) and use those credentials to log you in to Facebook.