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Facebook applications finally grow up

Facebook is making a concerted effort to make its platform useful for more than just...wasting time.

I've long been a critic of Facebook: too noisy, too superficial, too cluttered. This week, however, Facebook revealed plans to promote a range of new applications that are (gasp!) useful and not designed to simply occupy one's time for a few seconds. According to a New York Times article:

Frustrated (by "trivial applications that have clogged the site"), Facebook has tried to counter that and put more emphasis on significant and trustworthy applications...Facebook announced a series of new incentives for developers to write what it characterized as "meaningful" tools for the service. It said it would pick certain applications that meet a set of Facebook principles to be part of a new "Great Apps" program.

Some of these applications you may have already waded through the noise of Facebook to use, including iLike. But others are brand-new, like the application, a wedding-planning application powered by Facebook-based social networks.

Of particular interest to me is the fact that the application, featured and demonstrated at Facebook's F8 developer conference and funded by the fbFund, is open-source Alfresco at its heart. (Disclosure: I run the Americas for Alfresco.)

I suspect we'll see an increasing array of open source-based Web applications for Facebook and other Web platforms, which are themselves created from open-source materials. It's a sign that the Web and open source are going to get chummier and chummier.

If this means that Facebook finally becomes useful to people like me, even better. It would be nice to have "friend" mean something again online. On that note, I found Lee Gomes' related comment in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal hilarious:

Most of these sites are sensible enough to leave you alone to trudge along slowly from one game level to the next. Some, though, insist on inflicting on you annoying Web 2.0 features, such as social networks that allow you to see what games your "friends" are playing. The quotation marks are necessary because real friends--true pals--are much too polite ever to presume to ask how much time you've been wasting with Bloxorz.


Anyway, a more useful Facebook promises to de-clutter the Web a bit, making social networks more productive and less superficial. The fact that open source is playing a part in enabling all of this? Bonus.