There was a strange moment this afternoon at the Snap Summit 2.0 in San Francisco. Dave Morin, Facebook's Senior Platform Manager was fielding some audience questions after spending the better part of an hour giving a very broad overview of Facebook's development efforts to a room full of mostly developers. For many, the event was the highlight of the day in a conference whose very promotional materials were made to emulate the look of a Facebook profile page.
An audience member in the back called Morin out on preaching openness despite the fact Facebook is one of the largest social networks not a part of OpenSocial, an initiative that was designed to compete with Facebook's system by letting user data cross-pollinate between sites and services using a single API.
Morin shrugged the question off saying simply "It's pretty interesting. We've made some pretty interesting commitments to openness as well." Not to cut off the chances of Facebook joining the project in the future, Morin followed by saying that Facebook would continue to "evaluate OpenSocial and Facebook's potential place in it." Audience members let out a few sighs and Morin ended the Q&A session immediately.
As it stands Morin and company seem to be quite happy with Facebook's open yet closed platform that's has more than 300,000 applications. Morin nostalgically noted that when he was first brainstorming the platform project with others on the Facebook team, he had hoped they'd get 5,000 applications in the first year, and had no idea it would grow to be what it is today.
So what's next for the platform? Commerce. More specifically, integrating a payment system into the developer tools so application developers would be able to get cash from users instead of just advertisers. Morin says the tools will be in the hands of developers within the next two quarters. Facebook users have already been christened into the idea of giving Facebook money with its first-party gifts service, which lets users spend real world money on virtual gifts friends can display on their walls. The service represents a very early play on what developers would be able to do with their applications using upcoming commerce tools.
Also in the works is application localization for different countries. Facebook's grand scheme is to use specialized markup tags to let users localize applications by language without having to do any of the translation themselves. The result would be making one application work in every country Facebook can be found. The company has already been using a similar system on its own international sites by having users do the heavy lifting when it comes to translation. Morin didn't give a time frame on this feature, but noted that it would come later on.
Coming back to what Morin said about OpenSocial, I honestly don't expect Facebook to join the newly created OpenSocial Foundation or movement anytime soon. The company has a very powerful upcoming strategy of letting people spend money quickly and easily with micropayments (a la iTunes), and spreading the Facebook's presence internationally with the help of users who are willing to do the work for them when it comes to translation.
Opening up Facebook user to data, or giving up the system that's clearly been working very well isn't in the company's interest at the moment. In the meantime it's worth watching developers of both platforms closely, as they've got two big platforms to launch applications, and the opportunity to attract users and make money is only getting bigger.