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Facebook makes new push for more apps

The social-networking powerhouse launches a series of APIs in a bid to generate more apps and more sharing. Is it headed into Twitter territory?

Jon Skillings Director of copy editing
A born browser of dictionaries and a lifelong New Englander, Jon Skillings is director of copy editing at CNET. He honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing tech publications back when the web was just getting under way. He writes occasionally, on topics from GPS to James Bond.
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  • 30 years experience at tech and consumer publications, print and online. Five years in the US Army as a translator (German and Polish).
Jon Skillings
3 min read
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Facebook is looking to unleash a new wave of applications to get its users creating and sharing more content.

The social-networking company has launched a number of APIs (application programming interfaces) that will let developers access content and methods for sharing in Facebook apps including Status, Notes, Links, and Video. According to a post on the Facebook developers blog Friday evening:

Specifically, your applications can now directly access all of a user's status, links, and notes via new methods and FQL calls. Your application will have access to any status, notes, or links from the active user or their friends that are currently visible to the active user. In addition, we're opening new APIs for you to post links, create notes, or upload videos for the current user, and we've made setting a user's status easier.

We're pretty excited to see what kinds of ideas you can come up with to help users create and share more content. For example, a travel application could make it really easy for users to create and share notes and upload photos and videos from a recent trip. Users could then display that content within a profile tab for that app. Or a news website could use Facebook Connect to allow users to easily post links from the site and feature all of the most recent links that a user's friends have shared from that website.

In announcing move toward greater openness, Facebook says it has seen "increasing engagement" among its users, more than 15 million of whom are updating their status daily and who are sharing more than 24 million links per month. The social network has 150 million active members.

Earlier this week, Facebook gave another nod toward openness, rather unexpectedly joining the board of the OpenID Foundation, whose designs on a universal log-in standard are something of a rival to the similar Facebook Connect.

Reaction to Friday's API news was by and large favorable among Facebook watcher, some of whom were quick to point to potential competition with microblogging service Twitter.

Said Nick O'Neill of the All Facebook blog:

Will this "more open" Facebook platform result in a new wave of applications? Probably, but I think there are still a lot of things that need to opened on the platform. My guess is that we'll see a large number of status feed applications build and while other apps will be built, any Twitter-like applications will receive the most amount of buzz.

At TechCrunch UK, Mike Butcher went on a greater length on the Twitter angle--specifically, "why I think Facebook allowing you to make your status updates public won't affect Twitter as much as some might think." Point 2 out of four:

Twitter is "mainstreaming" the Follow model faster than Facebook. Facebook's users are not used to this at all. They may well find Twitter easier to understand than changing the way they use Facebook already. What you do on Facebook is often quite different. Twitter is much more about communication/conversation.

On Thursday, Facebook reached its fifth birthday.